Thousands of Riverside County Sheriff’s Department deputies, family members, and friends came out to the 25th annual Sheriff’s Picnic on Saturday, Oct. 12, in a celebration of law enforcement camaraderie, exploration, music, food, and fun.
The picnic, a private event that took over the Diamond Valley Lake Valley-Wide Recreation Center in Hemet, included a live music stage; tournaments for softball, volleyball and, new this year, cornhole; and a children’s zone with laser tag, rock climbing, a rideable train, bounce houses, and midway games.
Various sheriff’s department units set up booths to show off their equipment, methodologies, and personnel. Alongside them were various vendors selling wares.
Sheriff Chad Bianco, who’s been in office since January, noted in a letter sent to attendees that the annual picnic was not always the “must-do” October event. But this year, he sought to change that reputation and make it a favorite reunion of colleagues old and new within a fun environment.
Bianco told the crowd before the afternoon concert featuring Jerrod Niemann that the picnic was about celebrating Riverside County’s deputy family.
“It never gets old when people tell me from the public how happy they are with you and how you treat them,” Bianco said. “That’s what it’s all about. I’m very humbled and proud to be your sheriff.”
Among the picnic highlights were hands-on demonstrations and deputies eager to explain their trades from various department groups, including the dive, aviation, coroner, and hazardous device teams.
Angela Mendoza, a deputy coroner II and five-year department veteran, was eager to explain her job to the public. As a death investigator, she receives reports from various agencies, talks with the community and gets exposed to various locales, whether on a mountain or in a river.
“Wherever that body is, that’s where we’re going,” Mendoza said.
Still, she added, with the coroner’s booth this year they tried to bring in some kid-friendly fun: a black coffin labeled “bone dig” with candy hidden inside.
“I’m trying to bring them in because this booth, no pun intended, needs a little bit of life. You know what I’m saying?” Mendoza said with a laugh.
Deputy Devin Schmitt, an 11-year department veteran and member of the underwater search and recovery team from the Hemet station, was wading in a small pool set up at the park. Participants, mostly children, swam around the pool using department scuba gear.
The underwater breathing activity “brings perspective and comprehension to the public” about what the dive team does, which includes collecting evidence and looking for loved ones, Schmitt said. “People get an understanding that things happen underwater.”
Deputy Kevin Schroeder, an 11-year veteran who just started with the hazardous device team, joked that his squad has “cooler toys than SWAT.”
Their gear works to handle explosives and other dangerous items, getting them out of harm’s way.
While standing inside the team response van, which has video equipment installed and other tactical gear, Schroeder said people sometimes see them as “just cops.”
But events like the Sheriff’s Picnic show everyone, including sheriff’s deputy families, “what the entire department does, and what our capabilities are,” he added.
Lily Rubio, wife of Deputy Marc Rubio, who works in the Robert Presley Detention Center, attended the picnic with their two children, Evan, 7, and Scarlett, 2.
Evan particularly enjoyed seeing the equipment his dad’s colleagues use every day.
“It’s so interesting!” Lily said. “I love it.”
Riverside Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Michael Abel said it was “so great to see that many people out enjoying the day with their family and friends.”
Added RSA President Bill Young: “I would like to thank all the RSA staff and department volunteers that worked hard making sure this event was a huge success.
“This was one of the largest turnouts at a department- sponsored event, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.”
Photo courtesy of Riverside Sheriffs’ Association