San Bernardino Police Dept. has come a long way in its diversity

Photos courtesy SBPD: From left, Francisco Hernandez, a Hispanic Assistant Chief from local humble beginnings who knows this city and understands the culture of our largely Hispanic citizenry; Nelson Carrington, a homegrown African American Captain, the second ever to ascend to this rank in the 116-year history of the department, who among his other responsibilities, is in charge of Internal Affairs; and Lt. Jennifer Kohrell, a highly visible, homegrown, senior female lieutenant.

By Terry Elliott, Chairman, Public Safety & Human Relations Commission

For years, the citizens of San Bernardino have been vociferously advocating for diversity and homegrown roots in the San Bernardino Police Department. In a time where certain of our citizen’s desire to highlight issues with any Police authority, manufactured, perceived or realistic, and specifically within our department, we thought it appropriate to take a breath of fresh air and celebrate the long-awaited, over-looked achievements in diversity that the public has been long advocating for.

We celebrate the first Hispanic Assistant Chief in a decade (Francisco Hernandez), the second African American Captain (Nelson Carrington) in the department’s 116-year history, and the most senior female lieutenant (Jennifer Kohrell), all of whom reside in the Inland Empire.

Former Chief Eric McBride seems to have kept his promise to the citizens of San Bernardino, albeit quietly. He promoted from inside the ranks, a diverse team of qualified leaders all of whom are not only minorities but settled roots, living and raising their families right here in the Inland Empire.

According to San Bernardino Police Officer’s Association Vice President Jon Plummer, “More minorities have been promoted under the current administration than any past administrations ever. This level of diversity amongst ranks has not been seen before in the San Bernardino Police Department.”

According to the April 2020 census data, the racial make-up of our city is 65.2% Hispanic, 50.5% female and 14.3% African American. It’s refreshing to finally see our Police Department leadership in all supervisorial ranks closing the gap in mirroring the racial makeup of our city. According to current data, Field Training Officers: 9 Hispanic, 1 African American and 1 Female. Corporals & Sergeants: 7 African American, 2 Asian, 29 Hispanic and 9 Females. Lieutenants: 3 Hispanic, and 2 Females.

We currently have 100 fewer officers than we did when the citizens first approved Measure Z ( .25 % sales tax increase for public safety) in 2006. Our elected and professional officials simply kept de-funding officer positions and diverting the money elsewhere. San Bernardino voters recently approved Measure “S” (1.0%, 4 times the original Measure Z sales tax increase) again for public safety.

So far, the elected and professionals only funded 10 positions and voted to keep our jail closed, post-COVID. Council, at the City Manager’s recommendation, instead opted to divert nearly $2.7M from Measure S funds, to imprison Seccombe Lake Park. This Measure S money could have re-opened our much-needed jail and funded at least 15 additional officers on the streets of our city, in this writer’s opinion.

Two of our SBPD officers and a San Bernardino Sheriff’s Deputy were recently shot and nearly killed by a violent criminal. Another officer was recently shot at (leaving his patrol unit riddled with bullet holes) by a fleeing offender. It’s not the police’s fault that some choose to live their lives in unlawful and often violent manners. We citizens, too, must accept some responsibility. We cannot sit silent and blind as we see illegal behavior. We must participate in taking our city back or we become partners to our own evisceration! We too have to say, NO MORE…!

Stable departments in the region, we are informed, are largely successful because they have a succession plan developed from within. Among other local police agencies, it is commonly stated in law enforcement circles, “for the average officer… one day working patrol in San Bernardino is equivalent to 5 days in most any other city.” If we don’t appreciate and support our officers, other agencies are happy, willing and able to recruit them on-site. Citizens of San Bernardino make a significant financial investment in recruiting, vetting, training, and developing quality officers, just to risk losing them to other agencies, simply because we are not appreciative or, some desire to use our dedicated officers simply as pawns, just to score immediate political points.

All too often, all that our officers hear is negative from the dais and the public, and it seems to some that our department and those who serve in it, go largely unappreciated until we personally want or need them. The men and women of our department go out on our streets every day and do a dangerous job, literally putting their lives on the line just to keep our city functional and safe, while too often, our political leaders bicker and jockey on the dais. To all of our men and women in uniform, we thought it appropriate to just say, “THANK YOU” and we do appreciate you!

Once again, as we embark on yet another highly political season, it is my hope that we can dial down the rhetoric a bit and acknowledge the dangerous, good and necessary work these men and women do, in an attempt to keep us safe, realizing that all too often, personal political ambitions and the rhetoric that accompanies it, often escalates and negatively impacts the already dangerous environment that our officers have to work and survive in.

We now have a Hispanic Assistant Chief from local humble beginnings who knows this city and understands the culture of our largely Hispanic citizenry. We have a homegrown African American Captain, the second ever to ascend to this rank in the 116-year history of the department, who among his other responsibilities, is in charge of Internal Affairs (the division that reviews officer conduct). In Addition, we have a highly visible, homegrown, senior female lieutenant, who most have interacted with at one time or another, and we know her to “get things done.”

Again, it is with great pride we celebrate these exceptional local heroes as our new leaders and congratulate each of them.

*Views expressed don’t necessarily reflect those of IECN.