RPD serves their community with a big heart

RPD serves their community with a big heartShould you encounter a law enforcement officer from the Ridgecrest Police Department (RPD), you can rest assured that they were fully vetted and trained before given the opportunity to don their uniform. Captain Aaron Tucker of the RPD says, “Becoming a police officer is a very physically and mentally demanding process to assure that new hires are someone who will make sure that the citizens of the community are safe and that the laws of the state and the United States are enforced.”

Tucker explains the hiring process to become a police officer for the City of Ridgecrest. It begins with the job posting which lists the requirements of being age 21 upon appointment, good moral character, submitting a resume and a City of Ridgecrest application. If you make it past that you have to pass physical agility testing which includes a “400 meter run, an obstacle course, a solid wall, a chain link wall, and a dummy drag.” At that point you also take the “ Post Entry Level Law Enforcement Test Battery (PELLETB), basically it goes over your writing, reading and reasoning abilities.”

Applicants who meet the minimum score or higher from those tests “are invited for an oral board interview with an interview panel, usually a Sergeant, Officer, a Detective, HR manager, individuals with an array of levels of experience. Several scenario based questions are asked.” Those who progress past the interview move on to an interview with the Chief of Police. If still in the running the next step is a deep background check and reference checks. Tucker says, “ If they pass all that, a conditional job offer is given and then they are sent to a polygraph, a medical, and a psychological exam.” After passing those three things a formal job offer is given and you are sent to a Police Academy.

“Police Academy is a very intensive live-in academy. You are there Monday – Friday for six months. Once you complete the academy, you will come back here you will be assigned to a Field Training Officer (FTO).” FTO is 16 weeks of training broken into four sections. “Upon successful completion of a FTO program then you are a solo police officer. We have a probationary period of a year and half.”

A few RPD officers took a moment to share their insights and personal reflections of serving in Ridgecrest.

Tucker said, “I love this community. I was born and raised here and I am proud to be a member of the Police Department. I have always had a passion to help people and I like new challenges. Every day is something different and to be able to give back to the community is important to me. My best memories have been able to serve the community and be a part of community-oriented policing such as Shop with a Cop and Coffee with a Cop.”

Fifteen year veteran of RPD, Sergeant Nathan Lloyd, tells us, “I was always going to be in the military or law enforcement when I was a kid. I got my EMT license for being an ambulance guy and learned that I liked to help people. Then I took the reserve academy at Cerro Coso. I listened to the more mature guys tell their stories and about what a great job it was.” He heeded their advice and says, “I definitely have the best job in the world.

This is a great town to work for. You watch the news, you look at the whole country and there is a divide between citizens and law enforcement. But this town and its people come up and say they appreciate me, they offer to buy me drinks. I understand that I am not the most popular guy because I am here when the rules are broke and I am going to enforce them. But this is a great city to work for.”

He jokes, “And I like to drive fast and carry a gun. This job does have excitement to it and there is adrenaline that comes with it. Not every day can be the same day as the day before. There is always something new to deal with.

As a sergeant my job is to supervise and mentor and build up patrolmen. They come out of the academy, they have their FTO and then they are on their own. That’s where the sergeant’s job now comes even more so the direct line of supervision. I’m not only the boss that makes sure they come to work on time, their reports are done on time, but I am also there to make that I am growing them in their careers. That they are advancing and becoming more capable officers in their job.

This can be a tough way to make a living, but when you talk to everybody, they tell you they do it to help people be better. There are things you see out there that can really be a downer to your mental health. We are called when people are at their worst.

Working out is my stress release. I am very happy there is a new gym in town. We, as police officers, because we work shift work and we work a lot of overtime and call outs, sleep schedule isn’t always there and eating good food isn’t always there, so it is a constant struggle to meet the demands of the job and still maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Officer Laura Kenney’s life experience led her into law enforcement. She tells us, “I come from a really rough background. I was born in Southern California and my mother, a single mother of eight, moved us to the California High Desert, and we bounced everywhere. So law enforcement was present in my life at a very young age. I saw a lot of flaws in it. I thought the best way to make a change was to be part of the problem. Growing up I saw the good and the bad in law enforcement. Mostly with my four older brothers, law enforcement was at my house all the time. There were good officers and not so good officers. So I wanted to help build that bridge. Law enforcement came into my life when I was sixteen, that’s when I became an Explorer for the Sheriff’s office. My truancy officer was a retired LA County sheriff, we got to talking, he said, ‘You are bright, Laura. You got this.’ So I joined as an Explorer and at 19 I got hired by the Sheriff’s office as Detention Deputy. Then I just continued.”

Kenney joined RPD in 2017 and agrees that “The community is very pro law enforcement. I have done a lot of events with the community, especially with the juveniles.” She acknowledges her background gives her insight. “How are you going to understand somebody if you have never been through it yourself? I can counsel them, talk to them, and give them the resources they need that I didn’t have when I was younger.”

Of her responsibilities she says, “I am a training coordinator, background investigator, Tobacco Use Prevention through Education school resource officer and I just completed my Field Training Officer certificate so I will be doing that also.”

Kenney relieves stress through camaraderie, “This is our culture, these are my family. This is my blue family, my brothers and sister. We vent to each other, just like any family. We have our disagreements, but we get through it because we are family. It is hard. We look out for each other.” She adds, “A lot of people don’t understand, we are a family; we love our community because our community is our family.”

Officer Mike Ogas tells us, “I have had the opportunity in my lifetime to work in several fields. I started out at an early age working with the forest service, it wasn’t really my calling. I then came over to Liberty Ambulance as an EMT, got my paramedic license and loved being a paramedic. I went on a ride along with one my buddies with Kern County Sheriff and learned that law enforcement was a lot broader. You can help out more people in different areas. One minute you are going to a medical aid, the next there is a fire, the next we are investigating a car accident. A multitude of things. Never a dull moment, never a dull day.”

Ogas is assigned to the Traffic Unit, “Mostly traffic enforcement, speed enforcement, writing tickets, investigating stolen vehicles, investigating traffic collisions. Also DUI’s.” He shares one of his achievements, “I was assigned to investigating stolen vehicles. I was talking to the deputies in San Bernardino county. There was a reported stolen vehicle, the owner had been out of the country. I put 37 days of investigation in and I recovered three vehicles: a truck, a trailer, and a car. I put in a lot of work and got the guy.”

Ogas has received five life saving awards.

Hanging out with family, relieves his stress at the end of the day, “My daughter is five and half and she makes every single day better. And my wife is very supportive. She used to be an Explorer here years ago. She worked at the office at Liberty, that’s how we met. She has always been very pro-law enforcement. It is the support that I have from my family. I can tell her all about my day, the worst, the best and then everything is good.

The is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. When you go into your interview you don’t say, ‘I want to help people.’ You are here to investigate crimes when bad things happen to people and solve them and take people to jail. But it is a lot more than that. It isn’t that simple. It is a hybrid of everything I have ever done in my life and I love it.”

Story First Published: 2021-10-01