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Riverside County Sheriff’s 1st Black Chief Deputy to Retire Boris Robinson’s Rx for success

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By Chris Levister

Imagine jumping out of bed every morning, thrilled to greet another day with nothing but love for law enforcement.

“I can’t imagine waking up with a sense of dread, dragging my feet to get to work.” Riverside County Chief Deputy Boris Robinson, whose weapon of choice is education, loves communicating on Facebook. He also loves to laugh at his favorite comedian - himself. “You can’t do this job for as long as I have and not be able to laugh at your own blunders.” Since 1987, all of those things have been his primary tools for fighting crime, too. Whether training parents and teachers on gang prevention, investigating an officer involved shooting or real time crime mapping, the county’s first Black Chief Deputy who rose through the ranks of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is retiring.

On May 31, his 25-year career in law enforcement — which began as a patrol deputy at the Lake Elsinore Sheriff’s Station — comes to an end.

“I sometimes pinch myself and think, ‘How did Boris Robinson get so lucky to have the life he’s had?’” Robinson said recently while talking about his career. “I call it a transition because I’m still going to work,” he said. “It’s time to take what I’ve learned here to the next level,” said Robinson who plans to open his own consulting firm. But don’t mistake his boyish look. He is by all accounts a highly accomplished, razor sharp thinker with a soft spot for children. Born and raised in Queens, New York, Robinson comes from a strong family unit headed by – as he puts it – his ‘no joke’ father.

“I was raised the old fashion way – my dad gave us a menu with three choices: school, military or a job. I’ve been working since I was 14-years-old.” “My mom and dad taught us the value of hard work. They held us accountable. They said you will stay away from drugs and be active in sports. My brother and I played in several R&B bands.” Robinson credits “great mentors” with kick starting his interest in the military and law enforcement.

His early mentor Officer Smith “Smitty”, a Community Relations Cop and coach with the Police Athletic League in New York left his mark. “He would say ‘untapped talent counts for nothing’. He taught me responsibility walks hand in hand with capacity and power.” After joining the Air Force in 1979, Robinson traveled around the globe. It was at March Air Force Base he met and fell in love with Felicia, his wife of 30-years. The couple has 4 children, including a son, two adopted daughters and a daughter serving in the Navy.

Following stints at the Riverside County Health Department and County Animal Control, Robinson again, heard the call to law enforcement.

“Felicia would say – ‘now honey you’ve always wanted to go into law enforcement – get moving’.” In April 1987 he began his first assignment as a patrol deputy at the Lake Elsinore Sheriff’s Station. He worked throughout the county, including Perris, Banning, Jurupa, Temecula and Moreno Valley. Robinson was appointed to Chief Deputy by Sheriff Stanley Sniff in July 2009. He currently oversees the department’s Court Services Division.

In 2004, he graduated with honors from the FBI National Academy. In 2007, he completed a Master of Arts in Management from the University of Redlands. “It was perhaps the hardest I’ve ever worked. I would come from a full day at work and classes ready for a long night of studying,” recalls Robinson. “My kids would come downstairs in the middle of the night and find me snoring on my laptop,” he said. It was worth it he recalls. “Walking across that stage, was a lesson I pass on to my own children: “If we have anything of benefit, we must earn it.” At this busy barbershop off Sunnymead Boulevard in Moreno Valley, Deputy Chief Robinson’s lessons resonate with a huddle of African American men who admit while police/community relations are improving, an atmosphere of distrust persists.

Ironically, in 2008, Riverside County sheriff’s officers were accused of a series of controversial police searches of Moreno Valley Black barbershops. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the city and its police department, Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff and the state board of Barbering and Cosmetology on behalf of three barbers. Riverside County settled out of court and made no admission of wrong doing. “Chief (Robinson) would ride around the ‘hood’ with a stern face but he always treated us with respect,” said a barber standing in the shop entry. He set an example.” Andrew, a high school dropout and former drug user recalls being told, “Clean up or go back to jail.”

“We weren’t close but he was like a father figure.” On Friday, June 8, Andrew graduates from Riverside Community College.

“I wanted to set an example by encouraging them to be part of the solution if they wanted to see change. Seek respect mainly from thyself, for it comes first from within. I said look at me. I’m, an African American. If I can do this you can to.”

He says while technology has given law enforcement sophisticated crime fighting tools, learning to deal with people and treating people with respect is crucial. “We have to do a better job of promoting ourselves as regular folk with a job to do,” he said. “With problem-oriented policing officers are becoming social scientists who work to address root causes of crime within the community. We utilize Facebook and other social networking tools for example to mentor teenagers – it gets them involved in say the Police Explorer Program or Police Athletic League.

“I tell kids find something good to do and be good at it. Step by step, little by little, bit by bit – that is the way to success. That is the way to wisdom. That is the way to glory.”

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