BY PRISCILLA CABALLERO
Everyone knows the Monterey Peninsula is a beautiful environment, but do we really know the people who keep it safe? And what is the job really like for them?
To answer these question, I joined Monterey County Sheriff’s Office deputies Rosie Silva, Daniel Lopez and Kevin Gross on a 10-hour ride patrolling the streets of the Monterey Peninsula in search of any signs of danger.
While dealing with stolen cars, finding missing people and helping people with depression or suicidal thoughts, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department sees only a maximum of three deputies a day to patrol around our area, requiring them to be as timely as possible when dealing with a situation.
The world and social media may perceive officers of the law in their own ways, with some holding pro-law enforcement stances and others finding themselves strongly against their practices, but what is it really like protecting a community?
“There is never a typical day,” says Lopez, who works alongside two other deputies for the entire Monterey-Carmel area.
“I think if you expect a typical day, it’s definitely not going to go that way,” Gross adds. “However, we tend to have briefing in the morning where we talk about issues, and then we chase calls. During summer there are a lot of burglaries, and we do our best to try and stop those.”
People can sometimes forget that the police are people just like the rest of us, and that they have to set aside their own personal issues and put their life at risk every day, prioritizing others before themselves. The deputies told me they have to have thick skin because there is so much negativity toward law enforcement.
Throughout my entire ride along with the deputies, they did not get a chance to eat because they spent the majority of their time running from call to call.
“I have seen more than 20 bodies that have been shot or stabbed,” Lopez recounts. “Those images you don’t get rid of. Especially kids. I’ve seen kids who’ve died, so those are images that can’t go back.”
Detective Mike Smith enjoyed patrolling our community as a deputy for almost 25 years, yet as he took on more difficult cases, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department promoted him.
“I was just promoted in February,” Smith says. “I took the majority of the cases from Carmel High School.”
Smith is present Monday through Friday at the Salinas main station, and he remains one of few detectives in the district. He mentions that CHS has seen a number of privacy concerns along with numerous allegations made recently that have added more stress to his position.
“I worked patrol for a long time alongside CHS assistant principal Craig Tuana and principal Rick Lopez, and now my job feels like that of a data researcher,” Smith reflects. “It’s different. I stare at a computer screen all day, so everything I do is documented, reported and videotaped.”
Referring to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the deputies share their thoughts on what they think gun violence will look like in the future for schools.
“School shootings are terrible, and unfortunately we will see a rise in organized violence,” Gross comments. “The media displays all that information, and somebody who may be mentally troubled on their own could now act on it publicly. One of my biggest fears is I won’t be there to help the situation in time.”
On the subject of arming teachers to combat this violence, Deputy Silva believes it’s not a good idea.
“Just because you pass a firearm safety test doesn’t mean you have the responsibility to own a firearm to protect a student,” Silva says.
Lopez notes that there are 10 schools within the district, and only two or three officers working at any time.
“I have kids, so my fear is [them] not going back home,” Lopez says.
Silva was the first woman to become a defense tactics instructor for the department.
“I wanted all females to feel comfortable with their ability to fight or use their tools,” Silva says. “I don’t want women using their smallness as an excuse. I want them to be confident and say they are going to be able to overcome a big guy.”
Silva adds that people’s ideas often stem from appearance and that she wants to put an end to this.
“It’s this world we are in where everything is based off appearance,” Silva says. “You constantly have to prove that you are just as capable as one of the guys because people assume that maybe I just deal with kids, but I deal with everyone, and I have to control them into custody just like my partners.”
In my experience riding along with these Sheriff’s deputies, I made some new friends, law officers who never have a typical day, nor do they face normal situations.