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Chief Mike Scott waves goodbye after serving six months as interim police chief for the Ridgecrest Police Department. / Laura Austin Photo

Mike Scott retires after serving 40 years in law enforcement

By Helen Tomlin News Review Staff Writer

Michael Scott, who has served for the past six months as interim police chief for the Ridgecrest Police Department (RPD), retires next week.  After 40 years of serving in various law enforcement roles, Scott was enjoying what he thought was his retirement. However, duty called again when Police Chief Jed McLaughlin was placed on medical leave last summer, and his position needed to be filled.  In a recent interview, Scott spoke about his law enforcement career, his challenges and rewards as police chief, and his plans for the future.

Scott has experienced a variety of positions over his long career.  He began as an officer for the RPD and gradually climbed the ranks until he left 19 years later as a sergeant.   From there, he started over again with the Kern County Sheriff’s Department. Over the next 13 years, Scott again moved upward. He went from deputy to senior deputy, to sergeant, to lieutenant.  And then, with the combined     experience from these two departments, Scott switched his work setting to China Lake.  There, he held various enforcement positions until he “officially” retired eight years later. However, after only a year, Scott was asked to step in as interim police chief to give the City some time to hire a permanent one.

The role of chief of police can be both challenging and rewarding.  Scott’s biggest challenge has been recruiting good officers. He said, “Every industry is short-handed, and overall, law enforcement has taken a hit. Recent movements like ‘defund the police’ hasn’t helped.”  Neither have laws that are easy on criminals.  He said when felony convictions are downgraded to misdemeanors or criminals are released “to do the same things over and over again, it’s kind of frustrating.”  He believes criminals need to be held accountable for their actions and “that doesn’t always happen in this current political climate.”

Besides challenges, there are rewards.  Scott said, “It’s invigorating to work with young officers.”  They are “a great group of guys and they have been very proactive solving cases.”  Scott alluded to a recent case in which undercover police officers arrested several pedophiles.  “We set up several fake male and female [social media] accounts and ended up arresting about 13 or 14 perpetrators.”  He said these kinds of wins are satisfying. “I like to see my guys out there protecting the community, especially with a fentanyl epidemic throughout the nation.”

Another rewarding job of the police chief is to present life-saving awards at the City Council meetings.  Lately, though, the lives the officers save are mostly fentanyl users. Because there have been so many, Scott was asked if the officers might see these rewards as “routine.”  He said no.  “It’s very exciting when you save someone’s life.”  In his officer days, saving a life was rare, but now “we’re seeing it on a monthly basis.”  One of the reasons these officers tend to be the ones saving lives is they are “first on the scene.” They are usually close by when the call comes in, so they arrive before the ambulance.  And, if the life saved is a teenager, “we all have kids and I think the guys appreciate that recognition.”

At this week’s council meeting, Mike Scott was given a plaque signifying appreciation for his service as interim police chief. Several Ridgecrest Police officers and staff show support during Wednesday’s presentation. / Laura Austin Photo

Scott looks forward to returning to his initial retirement he started last July 2022. He wants to finish some projects, travel to his cabin in Tehachapi, and spend time with his grandchildren. “I’ll just get back to doing what I was doing six months ago.”   

Ridgecrest’s open position for police chief is being handled by an executive recruitment firm, Bob Murray and Associates.  Among other applicants, Scott is aware of two qualified in-house candidates being considered.  At the last City Council meeting in Dec., City Manager Ron Strand asked that the chief of police position be raised from $157,000 per year to $171,000.  Strand admitted that even the new number was still “below market rate,” but hoped competitive enough to recruit someone qualified to fill this position.  The filing period ends Feb., 16 and interviews begin March 25.