Brent Stratton grew up knowing two things for certain.
His dad Bob was a detective at Bakersfield Police Department.
And his dad also never missed a baseball game or practice of his – if he didn’t have to.
The memory of his family’s steady presence in his life made an imprint, so much so, when it was time for him to choose a career, there was only one choice – join the Bakersfield Police Department.
“My earliest memories revolve around the P.D. My mom was a meter maid, and she met my dad at the Department. I just remember being around a lot of police officers, and it was a really positive experience,” said Stratton. “I remember for show-and-tell in 2nd grade I brought a K9, and his handler and he was so great with the class. It made a big impact on me.”
Interim Assistant Chief Stratton has been with the Department since he graduated from San Diego State University at 22. He gave up surf and sand, to apply at BPD and be close to his family. In his mind, recreating the childhood he had, with friends and family close by, a fulfilling career and a family of his own was his definition of a happy life.
“When I was born my dad was a homicide detective and he liked it, but he also knew if he tested to get promoted, he would have to go back to patrol and that’s 24/7. So, he just stayed in the Homicides Division for 19 years. This way he could always be at my games, school events and whenever we needed him,” said Assistant Chief Stratton. “He put me and my brother ahead of his career until I went to college. Then he took the Sergeant test passed and loved it.”
For Bob Stratton, who retired from the police department in 2005 after 30 years of service, he was surprised when his son told him he wanted to follow in his footsteps. He and his wife Mary, tried to talk him out of it, but Brent was determined to join the force.
“It was the only job that I had such a great opinion of because of the service you provide and the work that’s done,” said Brent. “I kicked around a few other ideas, but nothing else seriously got me going like law enforcement did. I know my dad wanted me to do something different. But ultimately he wanted me to be happy.”
Bob and Mary encouraged their son to go to college after high school and get a degree first, just so he could have something to fall back on just in case.
Brent and one of his buddies from high school moved to San Diego together and got their degrees in History. He came back after graduation and applied for Bakersfield Police Department.
“When Brent got into San Diego State, we thought he would never come back from that area,” said Mary Stratton. “But no, family brought him back and he wanted to be a police officer at Bakersfield PD, not just anywhere. When you see all the pictures of him that we have of him dressed up as a police officer, you know he was just destined for this. He loves what he does.”
While Bob had visions of law school for their son Brent, he realizes he was able to show his children that life was all about balance – even as a police officer.
“When I first started out, I was working with an officer who was my mentor, and he would give me advice and one of the things he told me early on was to have a life. Family is important, he told me. Don’t wrap your life around the Department because it can’t just be about that,” Bob said. “I made sure to listen. I tried really hard to be there, I coached soccer, baseball and I tried to make it to all of the school events as much as I could. It was a concentrated efforted.”
Bob retired from the department nine months after Brent started his first shift in 2005, and they were able to ride in a car together and share the special moment of being father and son in a patrol car.
These days Bob, Mary and Brent are continually active with Bakersfield Police Department, Mary is a volunteer photographer and clerical assistant in the Chief’s Office, while Bob was rehired to help with background investigations for new recruits. He also teaches criminal justice classes through San Joaquin Valley College and is continually inspired by the excitement of new students who want to know about the field of law enforcement, especially during these times of civil unrest.
Brent, 40, is married and with four children of his own, and lives a quick drive from his mom and dad. He is currently the acting interim Assistant Police Chief and is proud to be a part of the legacy of The Strattons known at the BPD.
“Policing in Bakersfield can feel like a family business,” said Bob Stratton. “I guess if there was enough of a positive experience for the parent then the child wants to join too. It tells you something about the department – if you have enough ties that want to bring back different generations.”