April 28, 2005
RONI GALGANO / Union-Tribune
New SDPD officer Jason Zdunich (center) was at the police shooting range last week. He's the sixth Zdunich in law enforcement.
"I was the coolest kid in school for a hot minute," Zdunich said.
The reaction was much the same when dad followed mom and became a police officer while Jason was in high school.
After two older brothers later joined the ranks of law enforcement, Jason made his own decision.
He signed up.
There are now six Zduniches (pronounced Zah-dune-ich) in San Diego law enforcement posts – four are San Diego police officers; two are sheriff's deputies.
"It's something we are all are very proud of," said 24-year-old Jason Zdunich after his recent graduation from the 62nd Police Academy at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.
Five of the six were in uniform and on stage for Jason's graduation. The host called it the Zdunich family reunion.
Jason's dad, police Officer Mark Zdunich of San Diego's western division, handed Jason his badge. Police Chief William Lansdowne offered the entire clan a hearty congratulations. Everyone else seemed to flash a camera to record the moment.
Proudly looking on were brothers Sean Zdunich, a sheriff's corrections deputy at the Central Jail, and Matt Zdunich, an officer with the San Diego police Gaslamp Quarter bike team. (Mark Zdunich's wife, Kyle Zdunich, a sergeant in the Central Jail for the Sheriff's Department, was sick and couldn't attend.)
Longtime members of the San Diego Police Department couldn't remember four from the same immediate family on the force at the same time. Yet there have been several father-sons, husband-wives, brothers-brothers and other relatives through the ranks. Officials, though, don't recall any mother-daughter combination.
Assistant Chief Lou Scanlon believes family tradition is a key reason many follow in others' footsteps and become police officers.
"Family members of officers understand the challenges, rewards and expectations in law enforcement," Scanlon said. "They know that the way law enforcement is portrayed on television is unrealistic."
Matt Zdunich said the entire family can't believe how it turned out. There was no grand plan for all of them to become cops.
"It's really cool, it's incredible," he said. "One by one, it just fell into place."
Predictably, others on the force have had good-natured fun with the foursome – it's the San Zdunich Police Department, for example.
For Jason, the dream started almost by accident.
When he was 7 years old, his mom came home from work as cashier at Village Station Market in La Mesa and said she was thinking about changing jobs.
"She said one of her customers, a police recruiter, told her she was very observant and would make a good police officer," Jason said.
Mom remembers it the same way.
"The recruiter came up to me in the store at the checkout stand and said he noticed I was very observant. He asked if I'd like to change careers," said Angela Zdunich-Goldman.
When her desire to be a hairdresser didn't pan out, she grabbed the chance. Little did she know that the three boys she was raising at the time would follow her into police work.
It was the start of 15 years on the force – one in which she has gained a national reputation for her weapons marksmanship, winning numerous gold medals in police olympics and world game competition.
In 1993, she was one of only two women to try out for the elite San Diego police SWAT team, missing qualifying by an eyelash.
Now, some on the force fondly refer to her as the "mothercop."
It was only later that she discovered law enforcement was in the family genes.
In 1999, she was on a two-year leave of absence in Kosovo with an international police force when she connected with the Zdunich family patriarch, and saw the family tree. She learned that five women from her side of the family down through the years had been police officers.
As she moved through the police ranks – and others in the family became officers – Jason, too, became enthralled with the job.
"When they came home from work, I'd hear what happened that day; if they were in a pursuit or something. The job looked cool," he said.
First, though, there would be graduation from Valhalla High, then a hitch in the Air Force, following a family military tradition. Dad was in the Navy. Brother Matt graduated from officer candidate school with the Marine Corps a year before he earned a degree in political science from UC San Diego and recently completed a master's degree in public administration from National University.
Jason had tours as a military policeman overseas, in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, before coming come to a job as corrections officer with the Sheriff's Department at the Central Jail. He then switched to San Diego police when the department lifted a hiring freeze last year.
He knows why he and the rest of his family have become members of law enforcement.
"I want to give something back. All of us do."