By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun
Sergeant Patrick McNeal still has a few boxes to unpack in his office at the Kern River Valley Sheriff’s Substation.
McNeal is the newly assigned Sergeant at the local substation and assumed his new post and his new rank as Sergeant on August 17. McNeal said he requested his assignment to the Kern Valley Substation.
“I put in for the assignment to come up here,” McNeal said. “I like small towns. You can connect with the people. So, having the opportunity to come up here, I was excited to do that.”
McNeal has been with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office since 2003. He has worked various assignments during those 16 years, including the Mojave-Boron substation, metro patrol, a handler with the K-9 unit and in the Internal Affairs division.
McNeal said his experience from his previous posts will help him in his new position as Sergeant overseeing one of the busiest substations in Kern County.
“Metro patrol is very busy. The call volume is greater than at a substation, and you find yourself going from call to call,” McNeal said.
The 41-year-old said he is looking forward to being back in a substation, and getting to know the people and the communities of the Kern River Valley.
“The good thing about a substation is that you get the opportunity to speak with the residents about their concerns,” he said. “I look forward to getting out and meeting the community leaders and business owners. I have a whole list of people I want to meet.”
With only three weeks since his assignment to the local substation, McNeal said he has had a little chance to get out into the community, adding that so far, the interaction that he has had has been positive.
“I look forward to getting to know this area. I plan to be here for a while,” he said.
McNeal’s desire to pursue a career in law enforcement comes naturally; his father served a long career in law enforcement.
One of McNeal’s prior assignments was as a handler in the K-9 unit, a position he held for six years. At the same time that his canine partner, Jack, was retired, McNeal was promoted out of the K-9 unit.
His former four-legged partner is now relaxing at home with McNeal’s family, which includes his wife and three children. He said that Jack is handling retirement quite well, since he has another dog that the family rescued to keep him company.
McNeal spoke briefly on changes that he has seen during his career in law enforcement, such as legislation that reduced a number of crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor.
“Those changes make it difficult, but not impossible from a law enforcement standpoint,” he said. “And that means we have to make sure we do a good job for the community and for the sheriff’s department.”
And from what he has observed in the past three weeks, that mission is shared by his deputies in the Kern Valley.
“I am very impressed and pleased with the knowledge the deputies and seniors have in this area,” McNeal said. “They do the best they can in handling the problems that come up.”
Problems that are not unique to the Kern Valley, such as drugs, homelessness, theft and burglaries.
As Sergeant, McNeal oversees a staff of ten deputies, two senior officers, and a reserve. He noted that a deputy is finishing up his field training, which will add another full-time deputy to the staffing level.
McNeal also recognized the work of the volunteer units, including the Kern Valley Search and Rescue and Citizen’s Volunteer units.
As Sergeant of the local substation, McNeal will be responsible for balancing the stacks of administrative paperwork with a desire to go out on patrol.
“I don’t think anyone ever loses that desire to go out on patrol,” McNeal said. “I know I don’t.”
For now, McNeal’s priority is to introduce himself to the community.
“I look forward to input from the community and having the opportunity to address any concerns. If there is an area that needs to be worked on or a concern that needs to be addressed, I want to know about it,” he said. “I will always have an open-door policy. If there are complaints or praises about the officers, I want people to make me aware of them and give me the opportunity to handle the situation,” he said.
McNeal said trust is an important partnership between the community and law enforcement.
“It’s important to have trust, so the public can come to us and provide information and know that we will do whatever is in our power to work together to solve the problem,”McNeal said. “It’s a team effort.“