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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Santa Clarita

1999's Last Batch of Deputies Graduates

December 31, 1999|ZANTO PEABODY

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on Thursday swore in 54 deputies who take pride in finishing last.

"It's sort of like a pride and camaraderie thing," said Sgt. Ralph Ornelas, an academy instructor. "They can say, 'I'm from the 304, the last class of the millennium.' "

Family members and Sheriff Lee Baca pinned badges on members of the graduating class during the all-day event at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita.

The new deputies round out the 500 officers trained since Baca took command in January. They will join the ranks of the more than 13,000 deputies throughout the county, with most of the new recruits assigned to the courts.

"It's a very important job they do in the courts," Ornelas said. "They will either work in a bailiff capacity or work with people in court custody until they move on."

Just as important, he said, the new officers becoming bailiffs and jailers free up more experienced deputies to move to the patrol ranks.

With 54 members, the 304th class, which trained at a smaller North Academy in Lancaster, has fewer graduates than the 120-member classes who trained at the Star Center, the department's main training facility in Whittier.

More than 300 more deputies are scheduled to graduate during the next several months, starting on Jan. 28, Ornelas said, with the 305th: "The class that will always remember being the first class of the millennium."

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