Although Commander Robert Lewis was recently promoted again, he said being selected as captain of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station in April 2017 remains the highlight of his 35-year career with the Sheriff’s Department, so far.
“To be able to work and strive to help make a difference in the town I grew up in, and am now raising my amazing family in, is a feeling that I cannot begin to put into words,” Lewis said.
After spending nearly three years as captain, he has been selected by Sheriff Alex Villanueva to serve on his 2020 leadership team as a commander in the Special Operations Division.
The road to captain
Lewis started his career with the Sheriff’s Department as an intern, or community service officer as they are now called, in Santa Clarita at age 19.
He entered the LASD Training Academy a year later and was then sent to Pitchess Detention Center as his first assignment. After working at several stations during his patrol time, Lewis came back to work in Santa Clarita just as the 1994 earthquake hit.
Though working all over Los Angeles County over the course of his career, Lewis continued to find himself being sent back to the training bureau, where he has spent the majority of his career.
“I absolutely loved training,” he said, adding that he still works as a course instructor for the Academy in his spare time.
In April 2017, Lewis came back to Santa Clarita as captain of the station, where his favorite parts of the job were interacting with the community as well as with his deputies.
“As I reflect on my time as the captain, I see the faces of so many people I met and became friends with during my time, both community and department members,” Lewis said, adding that it is continuing those relationships he’s going to miss the most. “I leave Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station knowing that I was so very truly blessed and honored to be working among so many people that I truly respect and appreciate.”
The next chapter
Being selected as commander among so many other talented executives in the department has Lewis feeling both humbled and blessed, he said. “It is my hope to bring with me the energy and passion I shared with the team of personnel at Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.”
Lewis and another commander now share the responsibility of overseeing all five bureaus in the special operations division, which include emergency operations, transit services, Metrolink, special enforcement bureau and air operations.
Though both commanders support one another, Lewis’ main functions are emergency operations and transit services, which includes all of the trains and buses in L.A. County, as well as Metrolink.
Lewis compares the transit system to a “moving city,” where crime moves with the transit, which he now works with the Los Angeles Police Department and Long Beach Police Department to oversee.
Having worked in Santa Clarita, Lewis has dealt with a number of high-priority emergencies, including 12 major fires during his term as captain, where he notably evacuated 50,000 people during the Tick Fire, as well as the Saugus High School shooting — all of which prepared him for his new role in command of emergency operations.
Over the next few years, he will begin preparation for the NFL returning to Inglewood, as well as the Super Bowl in 2022 and 2028 Olympics.
These units provide support for the rest of the department in whatever is needed, which makes for a wide range of responsibilities.
Lewis has found it rewarding to be able to give other captains guidance and impart some of the knowledge he has, striving to help the department move forward in whatever ways he can.
As he moves into his next chapter, the city of Santa Clarita wanted to recognize him for his dedication to the SCV, awarding him with a letter of recognition at last week’s City Council meeting.
“The commander has been a leader (and) a role model,” Mayor Cameron Smyth said. “His leadership and integrity have been exemplified every day as he went to work to support and protect the people and to lead our law enforcement agencies here in Santa Clarita.”
Smyth went on to say that though Lewis’ office will be moving to downtown L.A., doesn’t mean that he won’t be a part of this community.
All in all, Lewis said he couldn’t have done any of it without the support of his wife and three daughters. “I absolutely love my family, and I am looking forward to having a little more time to spend with them.”
Looking back on the past three years, Lewis said he’s reminded of how dedicated the deputies, professional staff and supervisors at the station are, adding, “especially how tirelessly they worked with me since 2017 to protect the community in providing a good and proactive community-oriented policing program.”
“The deputies are the true heroes for the work they did and continue to do in and around the community,” Lewis added. “It is the deputies at the station who deserve so much thanks and gratitude from the community for striving to make a safe home for all 294,000 residents. Crime is at its lowest because of them.”