There’s a young chief in town

SANTA ROSA — Ronnie Hernandez is leading the police department and making sure the city streets are safe.

“Before I get to the office I stop by the Stripes and get a coffee to chit-chat with the residents a little bit,” said Hernandez, Santa Rosa police chief. “I like to see how they are doing, and then I get to the office to do paperwork before I start patrolling the streets.”

Hernandez, 30, started with the department three years ago. He moved up the ranks to lieutenant in his first six months on the force.

And he wasn’t even on the job more than a year before he was promoted to chief.

Hernandez patrols the town in a black Chevy Tahoe K-9 unit.

He brought a K-9 narcotics dog named Gunner into the department to help the community and policing.

“Gunner is a good tool and a good asset to the department,” Hernandez said. “We use him when we think there is something suspicious in the vehicle or if we have probable cause.”

Hernandez leads a small police department with five full-time officers and four reserve officers.

“We help the citizens a lot and we have brought in better patrol units,” Hernandez said. “I also bought some terrain vehicles to be out there in the carnivals and parades to let the residents know we are out here working for them.”

With only one officer per shift, Hernandez is keeping up with the average 221 citations handed out per month.

“We get a lot of people who speed through here from all different areas,” Hernandez said. “It’s a small city and they think they can get through here real quick and think there is no law enforcement present.”

Hernandez said in the month of July, there were 58 incident reports called into the police department.

He said the department has seized seven cars and have responded to assault, credit card abuse, delivering controlled substance to minors, possession of marijuana, theft, public intoxication and drunk driving last month.

Hernandez makes $32,500 a year as police chief and also heads up the animal control department.

Hernandez, originally from San Benito, attended the TSTC Police Academy.

In his time taking care of the city, Hernandez has never had to pull out his gun and he hopes he never has to.

Hernandez said the city has sent him for training with the FBI and for police chief trainings.

“Santa Rosa is a nice quiet town,” Hernandez said. “But when it hits the fan here, it hits hard.”