MILESTONE FOR MISSION COLLEGE'S FIRST GRAD
Sergeant Dan Mastro has never been ordinary. And now that
hes reached a new stage in life, hes not about to change.
his adult life in a fanfare of attention when he was the sole graduate
of a brand new community college in San Fernando Mission
College. Because hed previously taken classes at Valley College,
Mastro accumulated enough units at Mission to become its first
and only graduate in the colleges debut year, 1975.
He recalls feeling
a little self-conscious, standing in full cap and gown at the San
Fernando Mission, surrounded by the colleges faculty and staff,
guests, and reporters who came to interview the "class of one."
"It was strange, but it was also pretty cool," he said.
"I received a lot of attention. I got a letter from the governor,
from a senator and from Congress people. And the newspaper did an
For Mastro, that first exposure to public attention wasnt
the last. During a 26-year career with the Los Angeles Police Department
as a patrol officer, sergeant and assistant watch commander, Mastro
made headlines many times for spearheading innovative outreach projects
in the community.
Whether it was Adopt-A-Cop, a food or toy drive for the homeless,
or the "We Care Bears" program giving teddy bears to children
traumatized by crime chances are, Mastro was behind the idea.
If you read about "Tip a Cop Day" (when off-duty officers
served restaurant meals and then donated their tips to the Special
Olympics), saw those anti-gang billboards featuring positive role
models, or caught a Neighborhood Watch program in Spanish on cable
television most likely Mastros name was in the credits.
Its no wonder the Los Angeles Times once called Mastro,
"The Maestro of Good Deeds."
"Thats just the way Ive been all my life,"
he said. "People would ask me, Why do you do all this?
I say, Because thats what were supposed
to do. "
For his efforts, Mastro now retired received a slew
of civic commendations over the years.
Mastro credits his experiences at Mission College with helping to
shape the "people" philosophy he took into the field.
Although his degree was in Administration of Justice, a favorite
subject was sociology a discipline in which he earned more
than 30 units. Born to be a cop, Mastro believes his field would
have been sociology if he hadnt been able to wear the badge.
that the students he met at Mission College also shaped his philosophy.
Even though hed already been to Vietnam by the time he enrolled
at Mission, Mastro acknowledges he grew up somewhat sheltered in
a Pacoima neighborhood he describes as "very pro police, very
"Suddenly, I was in classes with a lot of minorities,"
he recalled. "When I told them I wanted to become a Los Angeles
police officer, I was not well received. They began telling
me stories about friends who had been beaten by the police or stopped
for no reason."
But when Mastro
pressed his classmates for specifics, he often discovered that the
stories were hearsay or at least partly unsupported. For his part,
Mastro would urge his friends not to spread stories that could contribute
to preconceived notions such as, "All cops are bad."
It was exchanges like these that convinced Mastro of the value of
communication, of talking to people, of persuasion and reasoned
Its a philosophy that he practiced for 26 years on the streets
of Los Angeles and which he espouses in a new book, "From the
Heart: Lessons Learned from Life."
One year into retirement, Mastro hasnt slowed down a bit.
The parent of an adult daughter and stepson, Mastro is raising a
nine-year-old stepson while working in private security in the entertainment
and media industries.
True to fashion, Mastro isnt thinking small. Hes talking
to some of the entertainment folks he protects about bringing his
book to the screen. And, at age 51, he still thinks he has another
career before him.
"Id like to work for the President of the United States,
creating programs like those Ive been involved with but on
a national level," he said. "Programs that will benefit
Hes not kidding.
BY EDUARDO PARDO