Sheriff McDonnell targets recruiting deputies with strong moral compass; wants to change the culture of the department

Sheriff’s officials vow they won’t repeat mistakes as they push to hire about 550 deputies within the next five or six years.

The key, according to McDonnell, who is undertaking his first recruiting effort as sheriff, is hiring deputies with a strong moral character.

Sheriff McDonnell targets recruiting deputies with strong moral compass
Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Rafer Owens hugs Richard Parker on a recent Saturday morning as he checked in on citizens gathered to paint houses in Compton. Owens is community relations deputy at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Compton Patrol station and a pastor at Faith Inspirational Missionary Baptist Church. Compton October 17, 2015. (Photo by Brittany Murray / Daily Breeze)

Deputy Sheriff Rafer Owens, who is also a pastor, sees a strong moral code as interchangeable in his roles preaching at church on Sunday and as a deputy at the Compton station. He said the Sheriff’s Department allows him to be both a pastor and a deputy.

“At the end of the day, we’re just serving people,” he said. “Sometimes it doesn’t take a gun, a baton or a flashlight. It takes kind words, slowing down.”

Owens, a 29-year veteran of the department, spends his days encouraging young people in his hometown of Compton to become deputies. He knows how difficult recruiting is. He didn’t think he wanted to be a deputy sheriff when the idea was broached with him by two deputy sheriffs who were regulars at the Burger King at El Segundo and Avalon boulevards where he worked when he was a UCLA student.

“I don’t even like the police,” Owens said he told the deputies about 30 years ago. When the deputy asked him why, Owens couldn’t explain it.

“Nobody in our community liked the police, even not having a negative experience with them,” he said.

Now, Owens tells young people who are skeptical of law enforcement that the only way to change the relationship between law enforcement and the community is from the inside.

“If you’re the deputy, then you’ll treat them right, and you’ll know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, you’ll treat them right,” Owens tells them.

LASD recently held their Career Expo in Santa Clarita where academy staff answered questions potential applicants may have, O’Brien said. The next expo will be held on Dec. 5, 2015 at Los Angeles Southwest College.

“We want to expose all different areas,” said O’Brien. “There’s over 350 different specialized units on our department. There’s something for everybody, whether it’s computer work, data build work, off road vehicles, specialized weapons. We have so many to showcase we can’t put it all in one day but we try to do our best.”

The expos increase recruitment and also bring public awareness, said O’Brien.

“We want to be able to bring it to their communities and show them that the sheriff’s department is actively hiring,” O’Brien said. “We’re seeking the best and the brightest to come onto our department.”

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