One of Lake Elsinore's own is moving up in the ranks -- high up into the ranks.
Today, Sheriff Stan Sniff appointed Capt. Shelley Kennedy-Smith of the Lake Elsinore Sheriff's Station, to the rank of Chief Deputy, filling a vacancy caused by the upcoming retirement of Chief Deputy Mitch Alm.
Kennedy-Smith will start her new assignment in April overseeing the Central Field Operations (Cabazon, Hemet, Southwest, and Lake Elsinore Stations, Gang Task Force, and SERT) of the Sheriff’s Department.
Her replacement in Lake Elsinore has not been named, but Kennedy-Smith said by phone Tuesday evening that she will be around to help during the transition process.
Her appointment came as a surprise, she said.
"This is just something I never imagined," she explained.
Kennedy-Smith is the seventh woman, and the first African-American woman, to be appointed to the rank of chief deputy in the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, in its 121-year history. She is now the third African-American to serve in its executive ranks in the department’s history, following in the footsteps of retired Chief Deputy Oliver Thompson, appointed by then-Sheriff Cois Byrd in 1986, and retired Chief Deputy Boris Robinson, appointed by Sheriff Stan Sniff in 2009.
"You can follow your dreams and realize them," Kennedy-Smith said, commending the women who have come before her, including former Undersheriff Valerie Hill and current Undersheriff Colleen Walker.
Today's promotion, Kennedy-Smith explained, "is a result of their mentoring."
Kennedy Smith has a long history with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, stretching back to 1986 when she first started her law enforcement career. Upon completion of the Basic Academy, she was assigned to the Riverside Jail and later the Lake Elsinore Station, Sheriff’s Court Services and the Southwest Detention Center. She was promoted to the rank of Investigator in 1999 and was assigned to the Lake Elsinore Station once again, where she handled all types of investigations and was designated as the station’s Elder Abuse Detective. In 2000, Kennedy-Smith was promoted to sergeant and returned to the Southwest Detention Center. As a sergeant, she was later transferred to the Media Information Bureau and served as the Department’s Public Information Officer (PIO) from 2001 to 2004.
In 2004, Kennedy-Smith was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and placed in charge of the Sheriff’s Personnel Bureau, where she saw oversaw recruiting and new hiring of personnel. In 2008, she returned to the Lake Elsinore Station where she served assignments as patrol lieutenant, administrative lieutenant responsible for the station’s budget, and as the contract city lieutenant for the cities of Lake Elsinore and Wildomar. During this period, she was also assigned oversight of the Detective Bureau, the Special Teams Unit, and Lake Operations.
In 2010, Sheriff Sniff promoted her to the rank of captain where she was placed in charge of the Sheriff’s countywide Court Services Division. In 2012, she was transferred to command the Lake Elsinore Station, which provides service to 270 square miles of Riverside County and more than 135,000 residents. The Lake Elsinore station serves the Cities of Lake Elsinore, and Wildomar, and the unincorporated areas of Alberhill, El Cariso, Glen Eden, Glen Ivy Hot Springs, Good Hope, La Cresta, Lakeland Village, Meadowbrook, Ortega Hills, Temescal Canyon, and Warm Springs. In this assignment, she also served as the Police Chief for the Cities of Wildomar and Lake Elsinore.
In her new position, Kennedy-Smith will be an at-will employee of the Sheriff and will oversee various divisions within the agency (patrol, courts, coroner, administrative functions, and corrections). The primary responsibility of a Chief Deputy is to oversee personnel matters, personnel investigations and disciplines up to and including terminations, tactical issues, promotions and transfers, and arbitrations. Their typical spans of control range from 300 personnel to over a 1,000, depending on the assignment, according to a news release from the sheriff's department.
Kennedy-Smith completed a Bachelor of Science Degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2012. In 2013, she received the NAACP 2013 Spingard Medal for Career Achievement, and she currently serves on the “COPS 4 Kids” Board, and HOPE (Healing Outreach Prevention Education), and she founded the Lake Elsinore Station’s Cops and Clergy program, according to the news release.
Kennedy-Smith and her husband, Melvin, live in Murrieta and have two adult sons, and three grandchildren.