California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 8

City Slicker Tehachapi’s founding police chief, from Irvine, is enjoying police work in a rural community A big-city cop becomes police chief of a small rural town tucked away in the mountains. Jeff Kermode, 54, is living the “City Slickers” dream, riding horses and rubbing elbows daily with locals he knows by first name. Ironic, then, that the former commander at the Irvine Police Department found himself, a few years after being sworn in as police chief of Tehachapi (population: 9,000, not counting a state prison), a key player in a story that went international. Producers from “60 Minutes” and reporters from Time magazine even descended on Tehachapi to interview Kermode – something that never happened to him during his 26 years as a police officer in Irvine, the master-planned city of more than 200,000 in Orange County. The tragic story of Seth Walsh, the gay 13-year-old who hung himself in September 2010 after being taunted by classmates, put Kermode in the spotlight. Mostly, though, things have been quiet in Tehachapi for Kermode, who — soon after retiring from Irvine PD in 2006 — had his hands full building up the city’s PD from scratch. The Tehachapi Police Department disbanded in the 1980s, but city officials recruited a new police chief after becoming frustrated with costs and services under its contract with the Kern County Sheriff ’s Department. Kermode, whose parents moved to Tehachapi in 2003, always had his eyes on the town that sits 4,000 feet above sea level in the Tehachapi Mountains between Bakersfield and Mohave. He applied, and got the job – and loves it. It’s a rare thing to build a police department from scratch, he says. “It’s definitely been an adventure getting the department to where it’s at, but it’s been a lot of fun,” says Kermode, who with his wife owns four horses and often gathers cattle on a friend’s 45,000-acre ranch in the high country.  | Behind The Badge