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Laura Valencia Kenney stands proudly as her eldest child pins her sergeant’s badge on her uniform. / Laura Austin Photo

Officer Laura Kenney, RPD’s first female Sergeant

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer– It was a proud moment for our community on Monday, August 7, at 2:30 pm in the City of Ridgecrest Council Chambers when Ridgecrest Police Department (RPD) promoted Laura Valencia Kenney to the rank of Sergeant. Captain Justin Danpier formally gave her the promotion; she was pinned by her four daughters and her son while her proud husband looked on.

Danpier stated that this was the first time he’d seen a female Sergeant in his 25 years with RPD. City Clerk Ricca Charlon confirms, “To the best of our knowledge, with the data we have, we have not had a female sergeant.” Kenney sees this promotion as a proud moment for women, to see a woman rise in ranks in a male-dominated profession. It is equally historic that she is a Latina woman. “It is a big step forward in our community. It is not only good for the police department, but it is also good for women,” says Kenny. “We’re just supposed to be these little delicate little flowers, you know? And when you’re able to prove yourself with your brain, I think it is pretty incredible.”

RPD Sgt. Laura Kenney with her five children.
/ Laura Austin Photo

Kenney joined RPD in 2017 and has worked hard to obtain her promotion. She has been doing the duties of a sergeant for five or six weeks, “I was Officer in Charge, which is pretty much the same thing.” She has also acted as Team Leader for a couple of years. “My new position is going to be a Sergeant. I’m going to be in charge of supervising three to four officers per shift, which probably also includes still doing field training to train the new trainees.” Kenney was recently trained in De-Escalation and will also be training officers in those techniques and tactics.

She adds, “I’m going to be the Watch Commander for patrol unless they assign me somewhere else.” She says of the role, “You’re the one that’s in charge of the police officers out on the streets.” So when an officer is on a call, the Watch Commander shows up.

Kenney’s interest in law enforcement began as a teenager. “During my sophomore year, I took a Criminal Justice course. The teacher was a retired Kern County Sheriff’s deputy, and he was amazing. He was up and down all over the place. He brought deputies into the class, and that’s how I met one of the deputies who told us, ‘You girls need to stay off the street.’ He got us into the Explorer program, which is a youth volunteer program for the police department.

It appears that Kenney found her calling. “I don’t feel like I go to work. That makes sense. It’s just something that I love. You meet so many new people, you know, so many members of the community—the good and even those bad contacts that you have. As long as you’ve given one positive thing and you stay neutral, you’re teaching them. ‘No matter what I did, this person didn’t lose etheir temper’ or whatever they’re used to in life.

“My favorite part of being a police officer definitely has to do with being able to change and educate the public. I guess I lead by example. Their being able to see my background, where I came from, and how I was able to educate myself and become a better citizen. I can contribute instead of take.

“I feel like I’m serving my purpose in life.  I come from a religious background. My mom was always very giving to the point where she would take from us. At a very young age, that’s what I learned. I have a Catholic background and then a  Christian. My religion is to serve others. That’s what I feel like I’m doing.”

For kids who may be interested in law enforcement, Kenney says, “Come to the Police Department. Ask and inquire about it. We’re always so afraid; we doubt ourselves. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. Just come and ask and you never know what will come from it.”