The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is hiring. But if anyone thinks becoming a deputy is as easy as filling out an application, they might be surprised to learn that to be deputized, one must go through a rigorous background check that eliminates thousands of applicants. Fewer than 1 percent of applicants are accepted. And even if a person passes that hurdle, they must complete 25 weeks of Basic Peace Officer Training at the Ben Clark Training Center that includes extreme physical, academic, scenario, report writing and firearms training.
Last Thursday night, 60 people were sworn in at the academy’s elaborate graduation ceremony at Grove Community Church in Riverside, with the University of Riverside Pipe Band leading the graduates to the stage. Two to three classes graduate each year, said Capt. Ray Wood of the Hemet Sheriff’s Station. Most graduates would appear the following day for their new assignments in the sheriff’s department, though Riverside, Corona and Palm Springs police departments, and Imperial County Sheriff’s Department also had graduates in the program.
The ceremony began with a video the students made of their training. Like an opening scene from “An Officer and a Gentleman,” just the physical training reminded one of military boot camp. The physical training included sparring, wrestling and even getting pepper-sprayed. Deputies must be able to do such things as drag a person out of peril.
Students are taught to enter a building safely, chase a vehicle at fast speed in a patrol car on a windy road and even perform community service. These graduates helped landscape a new home for a disabled veteran, and participated in charity runs for Hometown Heroes and Susan G. Komen breast cancer.
As badges were pinned on stoic “soldiers” who marched in choreographed order from their seats to the lectern, proud family members and friends broke out in applause and hoots: “Atta boy, Scooter.”
In seven cases, family members — retired or currently in law enforcement — proudly pinned badges on their daughter, son, son-in-law, brother, brother-in-law and even grandson.
Class President Ryan Buonarigo told the class, “Never forget who you are. We represent the good in this world, the willingness to defend the weak, the desire to serve all and the drive to make our communities a better and safer place.”
He ended his speech with a quote from an anonymous writer: “I go to work everyday with people smarter than me, who are better at what they do than me. I go to the gym every day with people who are stronger and faster than me. I spend my spare time with friends and family whose values and body of character I aspire to reflect, and for all of these reasons, I get a little better every day.”
Keynote speaker Sheriff Stan Sniff spoke of the challenges law enforcement personnel face today across the nation. He admonished the graduating class to practice integrity. As he said, an important thing to remember is “ … doing the right thing even when nobody is watching … The word integrity is the very bedrock of the criminal justice system — law enforcement, courts, the correction system — it all hinges on that issue of credibility, it all hinges on that issue of integrity … Violations of integrity and ethical standards are literally death sentences to law enforcement careers … And when we have those violations occur, that brush paints every single one of us no matter what uniform or what agency you represent.”
The following day, the new sheriff’s deputies were to appear with their spouses at an orientation to be assigned to a superior and begin training. Most of them would begin their careers in the jail system.
Wood said he would receive two deputies from the jail system in what is called a “push.” Those deputies pushed out of the jail because of the new deputies, though they may have been on the force for four or five years, are still brand new to field work. They will be paired up with an experienced patrol deputy and require 16 weeks of training.
The minimum age to apply to become a deputy sheriff is 21. The department also is hiring civilian workers. To apply, visit www.riversidesheriff.org/recruit/.