Stephanie Rennie, the current Chief Investigator for the Inyo County District Attorney’s Office, is running for the position of Inyo County Sheriff this June.
Rennie is determined to make a difference in the way policing is conducted in her community through innovation, transparency, and collaboration between the police and the public.
Rennie says that she has always wanted to eventually run for Sheriff in Inyo County. A Lone Pine native, she has lived in the Eastern Sierra since childhood. Although she has left the area on multiple occasions, she has always come back, she explained to The Sheet, because she “valued the unmatched beauty of the area and the closeness of the community”.
Rennie started her career with the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department in 2003 as a correctional officer and worked her way up through patrol. During her time on patrol, she worked multiple different disciplines, but specifically paid close attention to serving victims of sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse, and domestic violence.
This included working for the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), which focused on victim advocacy.
“It was then that I realized, this is my niche, and I really enjoy doing this,” said Rennie, “So I knew that I would eventually want to come back to the Sheriff’s Department after my time at the D.A.’s Office and continue this work.”
She joined the District Attorney’s Office in 2010, and, in 2016, was promoted to the position of Chief Investigator.
Rennie said that one of her biggest accomplishments as Chief Investigator was obtaining the ability to interview child abuse victims locally in Inyo County, preventing them from having to be transported four hours away to be interviewed.
“There are no child advocacy services locally, meaning that if there was a child victim that needed to be interviewed or forensically examined, they had to be transported four hours away to Bakersfield to do so,” said Rennie.
She continued:“I chose to go out and have myself trained as a child forensic interviewer. I then brought the training here to local law enforcement and human services, so that we could better serve the needs of those children without traumatizing them any further by having to take a four-hour car ride with a stranger to be interviewed by a stranger. We can now do that here locally. We don’t have the medical examination piece here yet, but I’ve been working with local medical care providers to start that process too.”
Q: What do you hope to bring to the position of Inyo County Sheriff?
A: My main goal is to bring the community back into law enforcement and educate both the law enforcement officers and the community about what we all need to do to make this a safer place to live and work. In the words of Sir Robert Peel, the founder of modern day policing: “The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being the only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interest of the community’s welfare and existence”.
The policing principles that he spoke about back in 1829 remain as crucial today. In his quote, he’s referring to community-oriented policing. I believe that I can bring that back; that’s what the public needs and desires. We need to get law enforcement more involved with the community and the community more involved with law enforcement, and build crucial daily relationships that make law enforcement successful.
Q: What is your plan to restore trust, integrity, and confidence back into the police?
A: I think that our current law enforcement system would benefit from a number of changes that would promote this. The first is to transform our leadership style in a way that will support collaboration and enthusiasm. This involves encouraging all members of the Department to be able to offer their own innovative and creative ideas in pursuing solutions to problems, and to hear everyone else’s out.
I also think that an open-door policy with the public is necessary; I would like to implement a policy that facilitates more frequent and candid communications between the public and the police. A lot of the issues I’m seeing right now in the community are centered around a lack of transparency by the Sheriff’s Department to the community, and the public wants that transparency and communication. Some of the ways I hope to restore this would be to host [town-hall style] community meetings regularly with question and answer sessions between the Department and the public.
Q: Do you think it’s necessary to have K-9’s on the police force?
A: I believe they serve a purpose, and it very much depends on what the dogs are trained for. For example, drug suppression is huge and that’s one of the main reasons K-9’s are used. Our small group of law enforcement also works alone a lot, and having a K-9 with you helps as a support system when you’re out alone on the job. I have some mixed feelings about it personally, but having K-9’s is a useful tool if used right.
Q: What do you think Inyo County’s biggest systemic issues are that you would hope to chip away at?
A: Right now, the county is seeing a big influx of the transient population. In addition, a majority of these people also suffer from mental health issues. Locally, we don’t currently have the resources necessary to address and provide a support system to these individuals. I’ve been speaking with Health and Human Services to try to acquire some kind of collaborative unit to address some of their needs. My hope would be to do whatever we need to in order to better serve this population, which is currently being underserved.
Rennie loves the outdoors, spending time with her family, and being involved in her community.
She has four children, including a daughter who is currently in the military working as a flight medic for the Air Force, and who plans to soon enroll in law school.
Rennie looks forward to the race for Sheriff in June, and encourages everyone in the community to make sure they go out and vote.
“There are four candidates for the position and I respect them all. We each bring something different to the table. But I believe that my dedication, determination, integrity and honesty will put me above everybody else in this election,” said Rennie.