The past week has been family fun time here at Ferdman Clan Headquarters. Saturday brought out a proud set of parents and grandparents to watch our eldest grandson Cole play in Hart’s Bronco Allstar Game. What a great way for him to end the regular season, being chosen as the starting pitcher, getting on base both times at bat to help put runs on the scoreboard, and assisting his team in the field for the win. Then it was on to the People’s Choice Rotary Car Show, and as a member of the Santa Clarita Sunrise Rotary Club, I got to hand out ballots to help decide the leaders in each category. I met a very nice Harley-riding highway patrolman, and smiled when a young little girl sitting on her father’s shoulders politely asked if she could keep the pencil I provided her to fill out the ballot. My heart melted, and I’m sure I would have given her the whole box of pencils if she would have asked for them. Finally, on Father’s Day Sunday morning, Pam and I went out for breakfast at the Elks, where we conversed with friends and spent the morning with Joe and Elizabeth.
With all the goings-on, I also felt extremely fortunate to have been invited to the Sheriff’s Foundation yearly get together. Plus, the event was held right at the Sheriff Station, allowing us to get a firsthand look into the station’s day-to-day operations.
Did you know there is a Memorial Garden honoring their fallen heroes right outside the station? It is located just beyond where the service vehicles are parked. From the street, all you can see is a wall, but on the other side, it tells a very different story. Within the garden was where we started the evening, with a buffet dinner provided by Salt Creek. It made it even better to know Mayor McLean was also present, and as luck would have it, we were seated at the same table. Then, with a full tummy, we were divided into groups of 10 to tour the station, where we would get to view and hear about six areas of operations.
For my group, our first trek was up to the roof for a look at the sheriff’s helicopter. Being a Sheriff’s Pilot did not sound like an easy job. With two 3-hour shifts per day in the air going after the bad guys, and if necessary, attempting to draw fire away from the good guys on the ground in a bird with no belly armor, it did not sound like a job for the faint of heart. Think about it.
Then it was back to the ground floor and out to the parking area for a view of the department’s lethal and non-lethal weapons. It was very meaningful to learn about the deputies’ concern for only using lethal force as a last resort, and the policies and procedures in place to protect the lives of perpetrators who intended to do them harm. I’m not sure I would be so concerned with the safety of an individual running at me with a knife in hand, but the deputies spoke of using bean bag shotgun rounds, as well as other non-lethal weaponry, and they planned to continue their use until such time as their own safety was placed in jeopardy. We were allowed to handle the un-loaded hardware and one of our groups got to fire a training round from the latest non-lethal weapon. Never let it be said we couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, because our marksman missed the target, but hit the building, and it wasn’t even painted red.
Next it was a short walk to the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) vehicle. It pretty much looked like the SWAT vehicles you see in the movies; heavily armored, with a rear area set up with two benches for transporting the team. But the real story should be about the men and women who ride the SWAT vehicle into harms way. The deputy described, and showed us, some of the tools they use, including several different types of body armor. I was surprised to learn that some of an individuals’ body armor is purchased by the deputies themselves. I’m wondering if this situation could be corrected.
Alongside the SWAT vehicle was the command post. As you might imagine, it is a large bus-like RV, with a pop-out in the conference area. As we entered, we could hear the police radios in operation. Looking around, I noticed radio communications, internet and TV access had been provided, along with a large screen in the conference area. Managing and coordinating between all the different agencies during an emergency must be a difficult task. Having the command center available to bring the law enforcement management team closer to the action has got to help make the management process more effective.
Enough outdoor activities, so it was back into the heart of the station to hear from the “J-Team.” There were two deputies present to explain the workings of the team, along with a display of drug paraphernalia. With the J-Team heavily involved in the world of juvenile drug addiction, their heartfelt desire to get the kids off drugs rather than just throwing them in jail is extremely significant. They spoke about interacting with some of the offenders multiple times. It appears to take a great deal of time and effort before many kids are willing to try rehab to get clean, and sadly, many of them who don’t simply overdose and leave this world. It made me think about how frustrating it must be for the deputies to deal with the situation every day, and how they deserve a lot of credit for continuing to stay on a path of doing all they can to help our troubled youth.
Now I was anxious to see the K-9 team (those who know me know I love dogs). But as luck would have it, a big drug bust was now in progress, and they were called into action. A Sheriff’s Explorer had been our guide throughout our visit and the K-9 team being out of the facility gave us a chance to talk with him about what it was like to be a Sheriff’s Explorer in the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station.
This brings me to my personal observations. I spent most of my career as a project and department manager. As such, when given a tour of a facility, I tend to also look at the peripheral activities going on around me, and I was pleased with what I witnessed. I know we are getting a new, bigger and more modern sheriff’s station, but I am happy to report that even though the existing station may be crowded, it appeared well maintained, clean and free of clutter. All the deputies I saw interacted in a professional and polite manner, even when dealing with some unwilling visitors in chrome bracelets, their professional demeanor did not change.
An organization’s performance is driven by the leadership, and while Captain Lewis is consistently telling us, “it is the deputies who do the daily work who deserve our admiration,” he is the one who sets the station’s overall tone. Santa Clarita is fortunate to have Captain Lewis, and his entire sheriff’s station staff. They symbolize a professional law enforcement team, doing all they can to keep our community safe.
They are Santa Clarita’s six-pointed shining star.