Friday, June 26, 2015

• Meet Wildomar's Top Cop: Captain Leonard Hollingsworth

I've been a homeowner in Wildomar since 2001. Wildomar wasn't a city then and our policing was provided by the county. Today, Wildomar continues to contract with the Riverside Sheriff's Department as our police agency, and we have a Chief of Police...

His name is Captain Leonard Hollingsworth. He's a family man, and between he and his wife they have five kids and four grand kids with another on the way. I recently had a chance to chat with him to ask him how his first year as Wildomar Chief has been.

 WR  Let's start with the basics, tell me a little about yourself.
 LH  I grew up on a dairy. I went to CalPoly and majored in Dairy Science and my whole life had intended to be in the dairy business. In 1986 we sold [the dairy] and I found myself in the position of, "What am I going to do?"

I raised calves, and things like that, but law enforcement had always been in my mind too... so I looked into it. I had been self employed for a few years, and after looking into it [law enforcement] I saw how much I'd be making, and it wasn't much, but it was probably twice as much as I was making working for myself (said with a grin).

I started that journey and it took me, from the time I made the decision to pursue it till getting hired, took over four years. Working my way through the process. I came in through the reserve deputy program with the Sheriff's Department as a reserve out in Hemet.

I started off as a deputy in the jail in Riverside. From there went to [what used to be] the Banning Station, it's now the Cabazon Station and worked patrol, investigations and some search and rescue.

Then was promoted and came out here to Southwest Detention Center as  a sergeant. Worked there for three and a half years in floor operations in the main part of the jail, and I also worked as administrative seargent. Kind of away from the jail, working more with inspections and paperwork and personnel.

From there I came to Elsinore Station, before Wildomar was incorporated, worked here for a few years and was promoted to lieutenant and was back in Temecula at the Southwest station. Worked with Temecula PD, in the wine country, as liaison with the Pechanga Tribe, the casino and law enforcement. Then I got transferred to the training center. I was the administrative lieutenant there.

[My next promotion was to] Captain and back to the Southwest Detention Center. [Having been there before] I didn't have to learn the jail, I just had to learn how to be a captain. I ran the jail for about a year and a half. It was a big [assignment] with close to 1100 inmates and 300 employees.

From there I went to the Gang Task Force, and ran the Gang Task Force for two and half years. It has eight regional teams all over Riverside County. I was all over the county with different events, meetings, liaisoning with all the different PDs and all the contract cities. There are people from nearly every contract city, the sheriff's department, the DA's office, federal people that are involved in this task force. It was a big thing to manage.

From there, a year ago March (2014), I was transferred over to the Lake Elsinore Station where I run the Lake Elsinore county area and I'm the Chief of Police for Wildomar and Lake Elsinore... and here I am (with another smile).

Wildomar Chief of Police, Captain Leonard Hollingsworth

 WR  Sometimes a Police Chief is from out of the area (like Bratton was when he came to LA) but it's really nice that Wildomar's Chief of Police has actually put many years on the job here.
 LH  I didn't have to learn the area. I had to learn a few new people, and what I have learned since being here is that there is a core group in this area that goes from Wildomar to the north end of Lake Elsinore of about 40 to 50 people that are involved in everything. There are others involved too, but there's a strong core of active civic leaders.

 WR  When, or how, did you know you were cut out for a leadership role in the department?
 LH  I can't really pinpoint anything... I guess I'm here so I must be.... I suppose (said with an inviting and self deprecating tone), but [leadership] in our business is taught from the day you start, and it's ongoing. It was taught from the day I started the academy, all the way up to yesterday.

 WR  How has your first year as Wildomar's Chief of Police been... any highs or lows?
 LH  I'd say it's been all highs. It's such a cool place to work. The people in this town, the group of leaders —Wildomar just has a core group of strong leaders in this town that are involved and the city is like a family. City staff are like family, the city council are like family, it's just a neat place to be.

 WR  Can you name something that has been different than you anticipated about being Wildomar's top cop?
 LH  It's an interesting thing with the contract [between the city and the department] that I am a Sheriff's Captain, and as a Sheriff's Captain I'm commander of the Lake Elsinore Station, and as that I act as the Chief of Police for Wildomar and Lake Elsinore. So, in the department I'm a captain... my boss is actually a chief. At the same time, for the cities, I am their Chief of Police. So it's sort of a confusing thing  [though] I perform the same function as a chief of police of any other city just with different rank structures.

So to back up, I always knew that this job was busy, I just had no idea how busy it was. It's incredibly busy but I'm used to it now. When I started, and I took over from Shelley Kennedy-Smith, you hit the ground and you're already doing 90 miles per hour. It took a month or two to get my body up to speed to that 90 miles per hour,  but now I don't really notice it. Even though I knew it was going to be busy, I had no idea [what that was going to be like until I took over].

Captain Hollingsworth's "boss" is Chief Deputy Kevin Vest (seen on the far right just above)

 WR  Being the Chief of Police for two cities, do you ever get any down time?
 LH  You're always plugged in. Once in awhile, every few months or so, I'll try and take a weekend where I shut the phone off at home or on vacation. I'll still get a call because I want to know when major things happen. 

There is a work load, but my deputies are doing all the work. They're out there all night long... rain, snow... we had snow this year... whatever the case, they're working all the time. My biggest concern is their safety. That's my 24-7 feeling I have "how are my troops?"

 WR  What are the biggest challenges you face being in charge of the policing in Wildomar?
 LH  The loss of the VLF funding (1.8 Million dollars that the governor took away from Wildomar 4 years ago) really hurt this town, but we're still maintaining a pretty safe community. The officers that work out here really buy into it, and they want to keep Wildomar safe. 

 WR  Video cameras are everywhere these days, how do your officers deal with a rude or aggressive person with a camera that is trying to bait them?
 LH  The fact of the matter is we talk to our troops all the time. We remind everybody that cameras are out there, and they've been there for a long time. We carry our own. Our officers wear the body cameras. Quite often, if someone is filming, there're two people filming. It can be difficult because video only shows what's in front of the lens. It doesn't show everything that's going on. The direction is to always stay professional. 

 WR  Any messages to the residents of Wildomar?
 LH  The city leaders, the City Council, really have public safety in mind for this city. It's very high on their list, and I think they're (the residents) are in pretty good hands. I hope I can do several years here, but it's a big department I work for, so you never know. It's the core group of leaders in this city, I see it every day, they honestly care. My message to Wildomar is, you live in a pretty good town. 

—   •   —

Those were all the questions I had for him, though we did chat longer with the recorder off. He's really a down to earth guy that can balance the duties of his job while maintaining a good disposition... probably not an easy thing for some.

I've long touted that I'm very pro cop, but I am not pro bad cop when they are discovered. It was good to hear that the same is true for our chief, and basically all the other officers out there. If someone isn't doing their job properly, it reflects on the whole, and they really don't like that.

For all the trouble that the media seems to want to stir up involving police these days, it was good to have it affirmed that our agencies here take their duties seriously, and enjoy their good reputation, and look to guard and maintain it. 

•      •      •

I played cops and robbers and pirates and all the rest when I was a kid, but I didn't want to grow up and be an actor and play cops and robbers and pirates. I wanted to grow up and be that, be cops and robbers and pirates. — James Spader

1 comment:

  1. A very nice way to treat the people who serve our community. Thank you.


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