Robert Lewis was named captain of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on April 4, 2017. He replaced Sheriff’s Capt. Roosevelt Johnson who was promoted to commander.
Lewis is a life-long resident of the Santa Clarita Valley and was selected from a pool of three candidates after interviews with Santa Clarita city officials and a representative from Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office.
At the time of his selection Lewis was not new to the captain’s desk. He had served as acting captain in 2013-14.
Lewis has lived in the SCV since 1966. He attended elementary school at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School in Newhall and graduated from Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills.
“We lived in Saugus, in the original American Beauty tract,” Lewis said. As was typical of the era, Lewis and his siblings had a stay-at-home mother and a hard-working father.
“I was fortunate. My father worked three jobs so he could put us all through Catholic school,” he said.
Choosing law enforcement
It didn’t take long for Lewis to decide on his career path. As he grew up in the SCV, Lewis always knew he wanted a job that would benefit the community.
“I always knew I wanted to do good for the community. I never was sure in what capacity,” he said.
In 1983, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Nunnlee, took the young Lewis on a ride-along in the Antelope Valley. “I went on a ride-along with him in Lancaster and I fell in love with the job,” Lewis said. “Frank had a good heart and I knew I could be similar to him. I decided to get into law enforcement after that ride-along … and the rest is history.”
He joined the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department while attending College of the Canyons and graduated with an associate degree after finishing the Sheriff’s Department training academy.
In the mid-1990s, Lewis attended California State University, Long Beach where he obtained his Bachelors of Science degree in Vocational and Occupational Studies.
Lewis traveled throughout Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department during his career.
In 1985 at age 19 ½, Lewis was assigned as a community service officer to the Santa Clarita Valley station. “I started as a CSO to get a general idea of what the job was about and to make sure it was a career that I knew in my heart I could handle,” Lewis said.
It didn’t take long for Lewis to know he was in exactly the right place.
“I knew in my heart this was the calling that God had for me,” he said
As is typical with most new graduates of the Sheriff’s Academy, Lewis spent 18 months working in the county jail. He was promoted to patrol where he stayed for seven years.
Lewis worked in Lost Hills, West Hollywood and the SCV. “I was here in the SCV during the 1994 earthquake,” he said. He worked patrol here from 1992 to 1997.
Climbing the ranks
His career has taken him to nearly every nook and cranny of Los Angeles County including Malibu, West Hollywood, Altadena, Lost Hills, Crescenta Valley and always back to the Santa Clarita Valley. Lewis climbed the ranks from deputy to sergeant to lieutenant and now, captain.
“I was fortunate to be able to come back to the SCV as the captain,” he said.
After seven years on patrol, Lewis was selected to become an instructor at the Sheriff’s training bureau. After three years, he returned to West Hollywood as a sergeant spending three years working on the Sunset Boulevard Policing Team and the Entertainment Policing Team.
He returned to the training bureau as a drill instructor sergeant for the Sheriff’s academy at College of the Canyons. “Both times I was assigned to academy staff, I was fortunate to be assigned close to home at College of the Canyons,” Lewis said.
He returned to Santa Clarita (2007-14) as a lieutenant where he served as watch commander and the service arealieutenantoverseeing crime prevention measures.
During his last training bureau stint, he created “Crises Intervention Training.” The program teaches deputies how to work with individuals in crisis.
Lewis said deputies need effective tools to deal with individuals with mental illness, autism, Alzheimer’s and in other issues. “We have to be able to provide them with resources and other solutions,” he said.
Changes in the SCV
Lewis said Santa Clarita is very different now compared to the 1960s when his family first moved to Saugus.
“The SCV used to be a place where you could leave your doors and windows unlocked at night and let the air in,” he said. “Unfortunately, as it has grown and crimes of opportunity rise, we aren’t that kind of place anymore.”
Despite all the changes in the SCV through the years, Lewis hasn’t found any place he would rather live. In 1989, he bought his first house, a townhome, in this valley. In 1990, he moved up to a single-family home in Valencia. After he married, he bought a bigger house, to raise a family.
Lewis lives in the SCV with his wife and three daughters.
Lewis said people speeding on roads throughout the SCV is an ongoing problem.
“We are trying to get people to slow down,” he said. “We are catching people going as fast as 107 miles an hour — 110 miles an hour. We are citing them, but we are not getting the community to understand that speeding and violating traffic laws to get themselves to where they are going quicker, doesn’t benefit anyone if it leads to an accident,” he said.
Lewis said distracted driving, texting and using a cell phone while driving, adds to the problem.
Another challenge Lewis has faced since becoming the SCV’s “top cop” is the increasing number of overdose deaths in the SCV.
“In 2018, we had 14 overdose deaths by the end of the year. Compare that to 2017 where we had 6,” he said. SCV recorded its ninth overdose death in 2019 during the first week of May.
He is concerned the Santa Clarita could end 2019 with double the overdose deaths of last year. “I need the community to stay vigilant and SCV youth need to be educated about the dangers of drugs,” he said. “One person dying is one person too many for me.”
The problem, which is part of the national epidemic of opioid overdose deaths, is complex and not unique to the SCV. However, Lewis is committed to trying to stem the tide.
“Our passion at the station is to try and reduce overdose deaths and the amount of narcotics in the city,” he said. Residents who want to report crimes anonymously can contact www.lacrimestoppers.orgor call (800) 222-8477.
The 9 p.m. routine
“Most people in Santa Clarita don’t realize that at night, when they are asleep, is the perfect setting for crimes of opportunity,” Lewis said. “The people trying to victimize us are looking for unlocked doors, they are looking in cars for electronic devices, purses and other items they can steal and sell, either to provide for their (drug) habit or to buy things.”
Lewis said everyone in the SCV should practice the “9 p.m. Routine.”
1. Check around the outside of your home and put everything of value away, under lock and key.
2. Lock your cars.
3. Make sure your wallets and your purses are safely inside your homes.
4. Make sure all your electronic devices are safely inside your homes.
5. Lock all garages and all doors and windows to your home.
Lewis said his goals include “Empowering deputies and community to make a difference in the SCV together.”
The SCV Sheriff’s Station has 170 deputies to cover three shifts, seven days a week for a community of more than 290,000 residents. “It’s a difficult undertaking,” he said. “And we can’t do it without help from the community.” He noted that Santa Clarita is the ninth safest city in California for cities with a population of 50,000 and above and 49th safest city in the U.S., said Lewis.
Lewis doesn’t play golf and other than the occasional camping trip his main passions are his job and his family. “I love spending quality time with my family. That’s the most important thing. I also absolutely love my job,” he said. “You go into law enforcement hoping you can do what is best for the community, and what is best for society in general. That’s why I joined. I wanted to do something good for society.”
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station can be followed on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SantaClaritaValleySheriffsStation. To reach the station directly with non-emergency calls (661) 255-1121.