There is a new Chief in town leading the Riverbank Police Services (RPS) through the COVID-19 pandemic and the negative spotlight that law enforcement currently finds itself in. RPS Chief Ed Ridenour officially started his new position the first weekend the pandemic shut everything down in March.
Ridenour is no stranger to the Riverbank community as he has spent several years patrolling the city in the past. With the assignment for a contract city in Riverbank in the beginning of his career he did not know what to expect but quickly came to love it.
“As a contract city you do traffic work where at the sheriff’s department you don’t,” said Ridenour. “Here you are in the same place every day and you realize there are only a small number of people causing the problems in town and you get to know them. It was going to be a year-and-a-half assignment but I ended up doing five or six years here. I really enjoyed it.”
Raised in a family of law officers, Ridenour had an interest in law enforcement at an early age. There was a time when he had several family members working in law enforcement from Modesto Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department, Stockton Police Department to the Oceanside Police Department.
In high school he was an Explorer from his sophomore year to senior year. They did ride-a-longs, wrote police reports, directed traffic, helped at events and other tasks. Working part time he put himself through the police academy and in 2000 started his career with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. There have been many changes since he first started including the competitive applicant pool to the slim amount of applicants now.
Through the past 20 years with the Sheriff’s Department, Ridenour was a training officer, part of the special vehicle operations unit, worked in the coroner’s office, was promoted to sergeant, a community deputy, promoted to lieutenant, a watch commander, court services deputy, and made full circle back to Riverbank as Chief.
All the experiences through the department prepared him for his new position but the pandemic created a whole set of new challenges.
“I had a lot of high hopes and expectations to come right into the position and really get to know the council, the mayor, all the city employees and residents but COVID put a quick kibosh to that because face to face interaction stopped,” stated Ridenour. “It made it difficult in the beginning because if you don’t have a relationship with somebody it is hard to know where they are coming from and where you are coming from until you have that relationship built. I really enjoy face to face interactions and that was a challenge.”
The chief has adjusted to the new restrictions, however, and is settling in well. He has attended several city council meetings on Zoom and most recently he said the live River Cove meeting with residents and city officials was “a delight” for him.
The Junior Police Academy is usually held at the end of June at RPS but due to the COVID situation it will not happen in person but they will be hosting a virtual class so the academy will go on.
“We can give them a possible career path if that is what they choose to do. We will make it fun and teach them things along the way,” added Ridenour. “The police are here for them and we are part of the community and we want them to feel safe around us. So people are not afraid of law enforcement.”
Moving on as the threat of COVID continues, Ridenour has had to deal with a new challenge in his first few months as chief with the aftermath of the major incident in Minneapolis. This has caused turmoil throughout the country and in many cases a huge divide between the public and law enforcement.
“For someone to do the things that they did which are inappropriate and inexcusable is not okay but we are all paying for it and our country is paying for it,” expressed Ridenour. “That hurts. That is where I look forward to getting more involved with the community as we can when restrictions are lifted. This is not how we are in Riverbank. This is not how we are in Stanislaus County. Law enforcement here is part of your community; we are here for you. We live in our towns or the neighboring towns. We have strong support here but it is important that we keep that support. We are going to prevent these things from happening and we are going to be more involved.”
There was a peaceful protest held in Riverbank on June 6 but prior to the protest RPS and other businesses boarded up their windows. It was a hard decision for Ridenour to make as he did not want to send the wrong message to the public. After a few conversations with city leaders they decided to put up the boards as a precaution even though they did not anticipate anything disruptive or destructive occurring. Ridenour walked to every business in downtown and let them know what they were doing and why and that RPS was there for them. He also posted a notice on their Facebook page so the community was informed as well.
“The responses were overwhelmingly supportive,” explained Ridenour. “I had no negative feedback from anybody I spoke with. That goes to show that our community, yes, we are all part of the nation but the things that are going on across the country is not what Riverbank is about. It is a small tight knit community and they know we are here to support them. But it is also important that we continue to show them that we are and not just take it by our word but show them and earn their respect and trust.”
He believes that people have the right to express themselves and demonstrate but not to destroy things or fight each other. The violence will not be tolerated and the department is committed to protecting businesses and the community.
Prior to the end of the year the Sheriff’s Department created new boards with their core values and streamlined the mission statement to give clarity to all. The core values are respect, teamwork, integrity, innovation, and courage and the new mission statement is “protecting our communities by building trust, reducing crime, and promoting safety through enforcement, prevention, and education.”
“I know RPS is on the right track when I read these things,” added Ridenour. “We were already ahead of the curve on this. This is what we stand for. We have new folks here and we just want to make sure they know this is what they joined and this is what is acceptable and not acceptable here.”