In the city of Santa Ramona Valley there is a divide. It's talked about in coffee shops and laundromats. It's evident as you walk along Imperial Lane as the beach turns from pristine to dirty. This is the tale of two Police Departments.
There have been a lot of questions about the new Southside Police Department and the Sheriff's Department. Why do we have two law enforcement agencies? Were there problems with the Sheriff's Department? What exactly do they both do and are our tax payer dollars being wasted?
Jay Stone, Chief of Police of Southside PD has a small office, wedged into the corner, that is about as large as a broom closet. He proudly displays his professional certificates and Law Enforcement Credentials. He displays a painting on one wall and pictures of his family in frames on his desk.
Sarina Jade Ramirez, Sheriff of Santa Ramona Valley has a large corner office with a massive, fancy desk. She has space for her own coffee bar, along with large monitors with security feeds of the Sheriff's Office Building. There's a generic landscape painting on one wall and absolutely no personal mementos anywhere in her office.
There are other differences too, such as their budgets. The Police Department is being funded by a grant from the state and the SD is funded by all the cities and townships in the county, along with Federal dollars. The Police Department is housed in a small building that appears to have been an old tenement that should have been torn down a long time ago. The Sheriff's Department is housed in a brand new building with large, shiny windows that give expansive views of the entire city. The Police Department is run by a man, the former Governor of California, though he has extensive history in law enforcement. The Sheriff's Office is run by a woman with ten years in the military as a helicopter pilot and special agent in the Army's Criminal Investigation Division.
You'd think with these enormous differences in experience, funding and resources that these two Law Enforcement Officers would have vastly different feelings on policing in Santa Ramona Valley. You'd be wrong. While each had their own unique spin on answers to the same questions, they largely had similar answers.
When asked why the state deemed it necessary to have two departments and if having to open a police department was indicative of the Sheriff's Office failure to police, Chief Stone stated, "Santa Ramona Valley is a large county, sometimes an additional department is needed for areas such as this size and it's common, budget allowing, for certain places to have a department for each district, especially in reaction to high crime rates. I don't believe the SD failed in establishing safety in Southside, Northside crime was just as virulent, the redistricting was done not because they weren't doing a good job, but because it was just too much crime for one district and really that is nobody's fault but the crime-doers.""
Sheriff Jade Ramirez said, "Typically, the set up that is in place now is the way most city law enforcement is run. A town or city will have its own police force that handles the day to day stuff, then the larger crimes or the crimes which over extend their resources are turned over to the Sheriff's Office." Jade Ramirez went on to echo what Chief Stone had said about the amount of crime happening in the city was straining the Sheriff's Office to the breaking point.
Chief Stone and Sheriff Ramirez were asked what the differences were between the two departments in terms of policing. They explained the Southside Police Department is responsible only for the small area known as Southside Santa Ramona Valley. Their law enforcement powers give them the ability to patrol and enforce the laws in Southside. The Sheriff's Department have law enforcement powers that extend over all of Santa Ramona Valley county and that includes Southside. Southside police do their own patrols and can investigate most crimes in Southside, however when the crime involves murder or rape, the Sheriff's Office assists, as needed. The Sheriff's Office is also responsible for maintaining the county jail and for security at the court house.
Chief Stone was asked about Southside being policed by those who actually live in Southside as there was a feeling many months ago that the Sheriff's Office did not understand the community. He responded by saying, "I have been encouraging my police officers to perform foot patrols so they can better get to know the community. It appears most of our officers live in southside, not like it truly matters where anyone lives."
Sheriff Jade related, "Our job is to protect and serve all of Santa Ramona Valley, not just Northside. Just recently we did a community event where we offered self defense classes. Next month we are looking to do a fund raiser for a mobile food truck to help those who may be food insecure."
While there may be talk in some corners of SRV about the division between Southside and Northside, it is clear from talking to these two Law Enforcement Officers that there is no divide. Perhaps Sheriff Jade Ramirez said it best when she shared, "There is not that same sentiment now. Yes, Southside is still undeserved and under privileged. The most recent mayors have worked hard to bring us back together. I imagine there will always be tensions but it's the job or our leaders to ensure those tensions do not escalate and tear our city apart."
So there you have it. From a Tale of Two Police Departments to the Tale of One, United City. Santa Ramona Valley Strong.