He recalled his first days as a cop in Garden Grove — a 21-year-old with the face of a 16-year-old.
It was early 1978.
As a rookie officer with only 18 days of experience, Kevin Raney was the lone cop assigned to patrol, in the dead of night, the entire area from Brookhurst Street to the western city limits.
“I think the community would have been aghast (if they knew),” Raney told a packed City Hall chambers Tuesday night, when the soon-to-retire police chief was recognized as a Community Spotlight honoree.
Raney, who hands over chief duties to Capt. Todd Elgin at the beginning of the year, also recalled his first week working undercover in 1982.
Raney showed up at a motel room to buy methamphetamine. The first thing the dealer did was stick a gun in his gut and demand to know if he was a cop.
Luckily, Raney was a quick learner on the job.
And as he proved over the course of his 38-year career with the Garden Grove PD, he also was a born leader.
Raney, 58, joined by his wife and two sons, who both are police officers, thanked the city for having the trust in him to appoint him chief in 2011 — a job, he said, “that has been the highlight of my professional career.”
The newly seated Garden Grove City Council presented Raney with a resolution of commendation in recognition and appreciation of his highly decorated 38 years of service to the community.
Raney also was presented with a copper police hat made by Zack Barrett, a supervisor in the Public Works department.
In remarks he made after receiving the commendation and gifts, Raney told the City Council that Part I crimes — the most serious offenses — likely will be down 9 percent in 2014 when the final numbers are crunched.
Combined with 2013, crime is down double digits in Garden Grove over the last two years.
But Raney cautioned city officials to brace for an uptick in crime as a result of the recent passage of Prop. 47 and state prison realignment, which went into effect three years ago. He urged the city to make sure the PD has proper resources to fight crime and that the relationship between the city and the agency remain strong.
“When you look around and see what’s happening in our society and the disconnect between communities and police departments, it can obviously end up tragically,” Raney said.
“I’m very proud and happy to say we don’t have that issue here in Garden Grove. I don’t see it happening, and I think it’s because of the relationships (the PD has with the community),” Raney said.
Raney and his identical twin brother, Kim, both were inspired to become police officers after attending a class taught by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department at Lakewood High School.
Kevin Raney, who graduated from the Police Officers Academy at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, began his career with the Garden Grove PD as a 19-year-old police cadet. He became an officer in January 1978. In 1986, he was promoted to sergeant.
In 1991, Raney became lieutenant, followed by captain in 2002. In 2005, he was named the department’s deputy chief and in January 2011, Raney was appointed Garden Grove’s 11th police chief.
Since 2001, Kim Raney has been chief of police of Covina — making the Raneys the only twin-brother police chiefs in California.
Referring to Elgin, who attended the meeting with several members of the GGPD’s command staff, Raney told the City Council: “You’re in good hands.” (To read a Behind the Badge profile of Elgin, click here).
Raney credited previous police chiefs and several colleagues for teaching him to do his job with “dignity and respect.” He mentioned an “indelible” lesson he learned:
“Always treat people the way you’d want to be treated yourself in that same situation,” he said. “I think you’ll find our officers provide the same type of service.”
During his career, Raney earned several highly sought, yet rarely achieved, recognitions, including Rookie of the Year, Officer of the Year, Investigator of the Year and Sergeant of the Year.
He was awarded the department’s most distinguished award, the Medal of Merit and the Medal of Distinction, for his tenacious efforts investigating the death of friend and fellow Garden Grove Master Officer Howard Dallies Jr.
Raney said his proudest accomplishments during his career have been the community policing efforts as a sergeant in the city’s once-troubled Buena Clinton neighborhood, and the establishment of the Juvenile Justice Center in 1998. The Juvenile Justice Center is a model process of collaboration between the police department and the Garden Grove Unified School District that focuses on reaching at-risk youth at the earliest possible stage.
Winding up his comments Tuesday night, Raney thanked his wife, Donna.
“It’s not easy being a cop’s wife,” he said.
And he said he’s proud his sons followed him into law enforcement. Bill is a sergeant for the Irvine PD and John is an officer at the Garden Grove PD.
“Now it’s time for me to give back to my family,” Raney said.
The crowd then gave him a prolonged standing ovation.