Erik Estrada returns to help MPD colleagues
by Rick Yencer
December 4, 2008
The Muncie Police Department’s most famous reserve officer on Wednesday squeezed off a few rounds on the gun range, reunited with some old friends and jumped into an MPD squad car to put in an overnight patrol shift.
Actor Erik Estrada — a star of the short-lived CBS-TV reality series Armed & Famous , which featured celebrities working as Muncie police officers — is back in Muncie this week, for the third consecutive December putting in his time as a reserve officer and helping some local charities with holiday efforts.
Estrada is scheduled to take part in a Muncie Crime Stoppers holiday food basket program today at Meijer, and the Muncie Fraternal Order of Police Shop-with-a-Cop program at Target on Saturday.
“As a law enforcement officer, I feel responsible for all children,” said Estrada, who recently completed filming a guest-star role in an episode of According to Jim with Jim Belushi.
The 60-year-old actor will also be working the midnight shift the next three nights for the MPD, patrolling city streets from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Best known as “Ponch” on the motorcycle cop drama CHiPs in the 1970s, Estrada first spent a few weeks in Muncie in the winter of 2006-2007, filming Armed & Famous with fellow celebrities Jack Osbourne, Jason “Wee-Man” Acuna, La Toya Jackson and former pro wrestler Trish Stratus.
The actor promised to return to Muncie yearly to help with the Shop-with-a-Cop program and keep his law enforcement status active, and did so in a week-long visit in December 2007.
MPD Lt. Al Williams and Sgt. Jay Turner were at the FOP’s eastside gun range with Estrada on Wednesday afternoon as he took some target practice with live rounds from his handgun.
Estrada said his stay in Muncie would definitely include a visit to the local Chili’s restaurant for lava cake.
The public appearances are set for 2 p.m. today at Meijer and 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Target. Mayor Sharon McShurley, who recently took issue with Muncie firefighters raising charity funds on city time, will join the actor and other public safety officers at the Target event.
Police Capt. Charles Hensley, who oversees the Crime Stoppers and Shop-with-a-Cop programs, said Estrada was a big draw last year and helped raise money and awareness for children and people in need.
“We were just swamped last year with people wanting autographs,” Hensley recalled.
And the need for charities is even greater this Christmas with the economy in recession and growing unemployment as local government and businesses continue to cut jobs.
Estrada spent time Wednesday reuniting with some of the local stars ofArmed & Famous, including Jami Brown, a police detective who was his patrol car partner on the series. He also met with Deborah Davis, appointed police chief by McShurley since his last visit.
“I think it is exciting having a woman’s perspective,” Estrada said about a female running the police department. The actor said he was also looking forward to meeting McShurley.
Estrada said he had not seen Acuna or Stratus since the series ended, but was able to talk to Osbourne last December when the son of rock star Ozzy Osbourne also returned to Muncie to attend the MPD Christmas party.
When Estrada received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007, he was contacted by Jackson, who said she had heard he was planning a return visit to Muncie and wanted to accompany him.
Estrada told Jackson he was uncertain when he would be making the trip, explaining he was still upset with some of her antics while filming Armed & Famous. A portion of one episode dealt with reserve officer Jackson’s fear of cats.
When his most recent Muncie visit ends on Saturday, Estrada is returning to Hollywood to film a two-part episode of My Name is Earl. That role won’t be much of a stretch for the veteran actor; he’ll portray a celebrity icon named Erik Estrada.
Along with his charity work, Estrada has also been the spokesman for DARE, the national anti-drug program for school children.
Let’s be careful out there Ponch.