Thirty years after a young Patrick Rissler – then a fresh-faced deputy sheriff - walked the halls of the maximum security prison known as Wayside East, he’s pulling the pin.
Rissler, whose face is familiar now to school children, civic leaders and residents he’s encountered in 26 years as part of the Santa Clarita Valley station’s Community Relations staff, retired Tuesday after three decades of service to Los Angeles County.
“I’m gonna sit back and do nothing for awhile,” he said. “But I plan on finding something else to do, because I’ve gotta be doing something.”
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Rissler didn’t start out for a career behind the badge, preferring to work behind a camera as a TV engineer. He put his college degree in TV engineering to work running camera and videotape for Merv Griffin, but he also worked part time as a security officer at Magic Mountain.
“While I was working at Magic Mountain, I dealt with deputies from Santa Clarita,” he said. “I got hooked up to work at UCLA as a police dispatcher and got a little more taste of law enforcement and liked it.”
He applied at LAPD, the CHP and the Sheriff’s Department and the sheriff’s department was the first offer he received. He was hired in October 1980 and graduated from the academy in 1981. His first assignment was at Pitchess Detention Center, then known as Wayside Honor Ranch, in the maximum security East facility. He was there for a year, then moved to West Hollywood, where he received his patrol training.
In 1984, he came back to Santa Clarita and settled in.
“I spent 26 years in Santa Clarita and a lot of people wonder about that,” he said, referring to the traditional practice of moving deputies around the county. “I knew that I wanted to be at home and stay in Santa Clarita because that’s where I grew up and wanted my kids to grow up.”
Rissler is indeed a homeboy, educated at Sulphur Springs Elementary School, moving to Sierra Vista Junior High and graduating from Canyon High School in 1973.
His wife, who works as a substitute teacher and teaching assistant for the Hart District, may be leaving a “honey do” list for him to complete now that he’s got time on his hands, but Rissler said that he doesn’t want to be idle for long. His dream job has a direct connection to what he did for so long in Community Relations.
“I wouldn’t mind working for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” he said. “It’s so important, to teach children safety and teach them how not to be coerced into doing things by people they don’t know.
“That would be fun, to talk with school personnel and educate the children, teach them what to look out for,” he said.
Asked about the highlights of his law enforcement career, he said that serving with law enforcement officers across the country as security for President Barack Obama’s inauguration was a thrill.
“It was the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” he recalled. His post was right in front of the Department of Justice building along Pennsylvania Avenue. (Rissler, at right, sporting the layered look to protect against East Coast weather)
“Being in DC, seeing the President go by right after his inauguration was pretty exciting.”
His scariest moment came closer to home, when he and other deputies from the Santa Clarita station went in to the heart of the 1992 riots after the Rodney King trial.
“We were outside of USC, in a convoy on Martin Luther King Boulevard, and we started taking on rocks and bottles. Not knowing what was going on was pretty much scary.”
He also cited the Stevenson Ranch fires of 2003, recalling the flames licking at the back of Sagecrest Circle and the frantic evacuation taking place.
If he could change one thing about the Sheriff’s Department, Rissler said he’d listen a little closer to the grievances from the deputies and personnel in the trenches.
”The upper echelon has to hear the grievances of the deputies in the fields and promote change based on the people that actually do the job instead of what they think should be done,” he explained. “There are policies for everything, but they should be asking the personnel that are actually carrying out the work if it makes sense or not.”
The best thing about the Sheriff’s Department is the camaraderie, hands down.
“The personnel and people going out and doing the job are the best,” he said. “Doing law enforcement is a rewarding career, you’re helping people, you’re taking people that need to go to jail to jail for whatever they’ve done, helping people is the biggest thing that’s been rewarding.”
He’ll miss spending time with aspiring deputies, those exploring careers and hopeful that they will also be good enough to wear the star. Some of the Explorer scouts he worked with have grown up and become deputies at the Santa Clarita station.
“As the volunteer coordinator, I worked with people who became volunteers and ended up getting a job within the department as deputies or civilial personnel. Over the 21 years I did that job, I was able to show them that this department was worth working for.”