Kern County Rangers are a small force playing a big role to keep the community safe

Rangers making the most out of limited resources

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - The Kern County Rangers play a large roll in keeping the public safe and you may have never heard of them. 

The Rangers work all across the county. They focus their resources on the places that are highly populated. 

The small force is also struggling with budget issues, making their already small staff, smaller. 

On a June Saturday Sgt. Jessey Esposito started off the day patrolling Hart Park. He gave 23ABC access to see what they do on a daily basis. 

"People bring all their drama from home out to the park," said Sgt. Esposito.   

Instead of the long list of service calls, the Rangers focus on proactive policing in hopes of stopping a small problem before it turns into something bigger.

While driving around, the Rangers are on the lookout for anything that doesn’t seem right. 

Not finding much at Hart Park, he headed toward Heritage Park in East Bakersfield and checked out known problem spots. 

"This kind of area that is somewhat concealed, people feel like they can come in and you know damage the park, do all that kind of stuff," he said. 

Sgt. Esposito heard on the radio that his partners stopped four men who were drinking at a park on Virginia Avenue. 

Sgt. Esposito says alcohol is a common factor in many of the problems they run into.

"These guys were hanging out, got some alcohol, no big deal, but this gives us a chance to run their names, see what's going on with them," he said. 

One of the men had an active misdemeanor warrant so the rangers cited him.

Back on patrol, Sgt. Espocito said he never knows what he’s going to run into on the streets.

On this particular day, he counseled a man dealing with mental illness sitting in his truck, helped out on a traffic stop and then pulled over a vehicle without a front license plate. 

That vehicle stop led to a DUI arrest.  

All of their policing is accomplished with a limited staff.

The Kern County Rangers, just like the Sheriff’s Office and County Fire, are dealing with budget issues and are trying to make the most of what they have.

"We're catching people right in the middle of something and we might be catching them right in the middle of the worst day of their life or right in the middle of something they shouldn't be doing," he said. 

When fully staffed they have up to 12 full-time Rangers.

Right now they have five, including the Chief, to cover more than 100 parks, campgrounds and public buildings spread across the county.

"In an ideal world we'd have a lot of openings and a lot of full-time spots," he said. 

Officer safety is a top priority, so the Rangers schedule most of their officers on the same shift to ensure they have back up in time.

Another challenge they face is a lack of name recognition in the community because many don’t know the Rangers exist.

"Doing a simple weapon search is perfectly reasonable as a police officer talking to someone, but someone wanting to challenge your authority may not let you do that," Sgt. Esposito said.

Despite the challenges the rangers face out on patrol, they know they play an important role in keeping people safe during what’s expected to be a very busy summer.

"Whatever the situation is, we just have to be diligent and just deal with the situation as it unfolds."

The Rangers said if you and your family are planning on heading out to some of the county parks this summer, always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your kids when they're in the water and in the park. 

They also ask that if you see something illegal or dangerous, report it. 

The Rangers don't just work on land, they patrol our local lakes too. 

Be sure to tune in this Wednesday to 23ABC News at 6 p.m. to see how they're keeping people safe on the water. 

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