Sheriff Dave Robinson
Kings County is a rural, primarily agricultural mid-state county with a population of approximately 141,000 and encompassing 1,396 square miles. Kings County's primary cities include: Avenal (pop. 8,742), Corcoran (pop. 9,811), Lemoore (pop. 21,500) and the County seat, Hanford (pop. 48,000). Naval Air Station Lemoore (pop. 8,192) is also located with Kings County as well as Corcoran and Avenal State prisons. Small non-incorporated communities include Armona, Stratford and Kettleman City.
Nearly 27 miles of California's sole interstate highway (I-5) runs through the southwestern portion of the County.
Headquartered in Hanford and under the direction of the Sheriff, the functions of the Kings County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) include investigations, emergency dispatch, animal control, coroner/public administration responsibilities and service of civil processes.Also and most importantly, the KCSO utilizes deputy sheriffs to provide law enforcement services in non-incorporated areas of the County and where commissioned by cities.
The cities of Lemoore, Hanford and Corcoran maintain municipal police departments; the KCSO provides contracted law enforcement services to the city of Avenal.
The KCSO also coordinates and participates in a multi-agency Narcotics Task Force (NTF) as well as a multi-agency Gang Task Force (GTF). In order to better serve outlying rural areas of the County, the KCSO operates substations in the communities of Avenal, Kettleman City and Corcoran.
Backup assistance is also available to the Lemoore Naval Air Station Security Detachment and the California Highway Patrol from the KCSO.
In addition to the functions described above, the KCSO is responsible for the operation of the County's detention facilities (with the exception of juvenile facilities) which include a maximum security jail and an alternative sentencing program.
Since 1985, these detention facilities have been staffed with professional detention officers.
The challenges faced by the Department were the same as those faced by all 58 Sheriffs in California as well as by law enforcement administrators nationwide.
Essentially, that challenge was to determine the best possible method of efficiently policing a population in an era of increasingly limited resources.
The Sheriff has continued in the path established by the former sheriff of community involvement in the policing of the county. That course of action requires the complete support of all members of the department.
The Sheriff knows the concept of Community Oriented Policing was not just something printed on a letterhead. It is a concept that he wanted his department to adopt as a policing philosophy. Community Policing is not just a temporary "program" but a way of doing day to day business.
Our relationship with the local schools, service clubs, and senior groups are at an all time high. The community has donated over $70,000.00 toward the purchase of the department's four K-9's.
It is easy to sit back and talk about how "they" won't do this or "they" won't do that. What we have found is that citizens who get involved in projects and are given an opportunity to help solve their own problems become part of "they."
The Sheriff firmly believes that the highest compliment a law enforcement officer can receive from the public is to be referred to by his/her first name.
Our citizens now feel more like a member of the community and not isolated individuals.
Our deputies now feel like more a part of the community and not just another person in a uniform driving a black and white patrol car.
The community has literally adopted the deputies.
When we moved into the Senior Citizen's building in Armona the seniors became surrogate parents to the deputies. They call them by their first names, ask about their children, and offer advice on personal problems.
The Plan of Action
First, according to Sheriff Robinson, involvement is the key word. A resolution was adopted by the Board of Supervisors proclaiming their support of the new policing strategy. This was a prime opportunity to get much needed positive news media exposure.
Next, each county Department Head was personally contacted by one of the two Assistant Sheriff's. The advantages of working in partnership with each other was the key message.
The department was well aware that what it believed were the key issues facing local law enforcement and what the public believed were the key issues must be the same.
Plans were made to survey the community and learn exactly what the public expected. Using Deputy Sheriff's, Reserve Deputies, and Sheriff's Explorers, door to door surveys were conducted.
The information gathered in face to face conversations was invaluable in formulating the department's strategy. Following are just some of the programs initiated by the Kings County Sheriff's Department in the past two years;
The Department has found that if the deputies are allowed to be creative, and given broad discretion, there are no limits to what they will accomplish.
For instance, the Home Garden area is a predominately lower income, ethnically diverse area of the county. In response to complaints about gang members loitering around a tree in a vacant lot and causing problems. (spray painting, yelling, staring at the local residents)
The deputies, working with the property owner, the Kings County Public Works Department, and some jail inmates, cut the tree down and hauled away the wood.
The gang members found they no longer had a shady area to stand under. The lot was plowed up, thus eliminating any possible cover of brush for them. The gang members have moved on.
The neighborhood residents are no longer afraid to go out into their yards after dark.
This same area of the county was plagued by old, abandoned automobiles littering the streets.
The Sheriff's Department, working with the Planning Department located appropriate code sections and had the vehicles towed.
For years a certain house in this area was the scene of numerous crimes. Drug use and sales were rampant as well as routine calls of "shots fired."
To make matters even worse, it was in visual proximity to a local elementary school. Many children were forced to pass the house each day.
Working with the Planning Department, the deputies were able to get an ordinance passed that resulted in the Fire Department using this house as a "training burn."
Just the elimination of this one house has changed the entire outlook of the neighborhood.
It isn't only the sworn personnel who have made our program successful. Our Dispatchers have been involved in making community presentations on "Are You O.K.?" and 9-1-1. They have set up a booth set up the last two years at the County Fair.
The detentions personnel are also getting involved. Work crews of inmates have been used to clean up community athletic fields and pick up debris along local waterways.
The Sheriff's Department has attempted to bring as many governmental and/or community organizations into the program as possible.
For instance, the local "Kings County Farm Bureau" has donated money to help purchase "Farm Watch" signs. They also publish a monthly newsletter that has a section devoted to a specific deputy sheriff and gives a short biography.
They list all missing farm related property and discuss any agriculture related crimes that have occurred.
Department members conduct classes with landlords and property managers to discuss their rights as property owners. They are taught how to make their rental properties safer and how to evict tenants who are causing problems.
Utilizing "Citizens on Patrol" and deputies, property with graffiti is located. After obtaining permission from the owner, the Kings County Probation Department sends a crew of juveniles to paint over the graffiti.
This program involved the communities of Kettleman City, Avenal, and the county portion of Hanford. Donations were collected from the community in order to distribute toys to children at Christmas.
Bicycle Helmet Project
Funds were raised to provide helmets to needy children.
Groups have been formed in all the communities in the county.
Similar to "Neighborhood Watch" but concentrating on farms and ranches. In addition, an "Owner Applied Number" program has been established. The property owner is given a number to stamp on all his property. This number allows any law enforcement officer to identify the property if it turns up at a sale, auction, etc.
In Kings County all 9-1-1 calls from cellular phones are automatically relayed to the California Highway Patrol.
We found that ranchers and farmers were reluctant to report suspicious activity via 9-1-1 because they had to wait for the call to be transferred back to the Sheriff's Dispatch Center. Now each patrol car has a cellular phone installed in it. The number is freely published. The local farmer is able to directly call the deputy working in his area to report activity or just to ask a question. Since deputies are assigned to a specific "beat" for a two year period, they get to know individual farmers on a first name basis.
The department has been given an office in the Armona Senior Citizen's building to use as a substation. This allows the deputies to stay in the community instead of having to return to headquarters to write reports, pick up supplies, etc. A modular trailer has been set up in Stratford for the same purpose.
Sheriff's Athletic League (S.A.L.)
Deputies worked with the local Native American tribe on the Santa Rosa Rancheria to install street lights.
Working under the charter of P.A.L. the deputies have established several S.A.L. groups to form baseball and football teams.