The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department: Maintaining Healthy Lifestyles

The COPS Office is pleased to feature the August 2016 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest—the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. The winning photo features Deputy Emily Ball along with her sidekick Cooper the K-9 speaking with students at Cordova Villa Elementary School about maintaining healthy lifestyles.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department covers a wide range of territory and serves approximately 1.3 million people in the capitol region of California. Its diverse population includes those who work and live in the unincorporated areas of Sacramento, in addition to the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse, the Sacramento County Jail, and the Sacramento International Airport.

With a sworn force of 1,250 and a civilian force of 660, the department is as diverse as the community it serves. Its deputies live by the motto “service with concern,” which is part of the department’s mission statement1 and can also be found on the side of their cars.

Service with concern is evident in the department’s efforts to reach its youngest population. In 2011, with a grant from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), the department created its Youth Services Unit. Supervised by Sergeant Cary Trzcinski, the unit offers a number of programs to keep Sacramento youth engaged and to create lasting relationships between deputies and one of the area’s most vulnerable populations.

“I use the word ‘at-risk’ loosely,” said Sgt. Trzcinski during a brief interview with the COPS Office. “An at-risk kid is any kid with free time.”

Sgt. Trzcinski proudly spoke about the department’s successful efforts in reaching youth during their most critical years. “We’ve targeted 7th and 8th grade, so most of our programs are based around kids in middle school. That’s the point in their lives when they’re at a crossroads. We aim to build trust with the uniform and the badge.”

With a variety of programming, including a girls’ mentoring program, Friday night basketball, cooking classes, youth leadership programs, partnerships with faith-based organizations and nonprofits, field trips, and much more, deputies are able to form bonds with youth through a variety of activities.

“We’ve done some studies and we’ve been able to determine that in order to get ahead of the curve, we’ve got to reach some kids before they’re put in a position to commit crimes,” said Sgt. Cary Trzcinski.

In addition to targeting middle school–aged children, the Youth Services Unit spends a considerable amount of time in elementary schools familiarizing younger children with law enforcement. Deputy Emily Ball, featured in the winning photo, visited students at Cordova Villa Elementary School in October 2015 to share the importance of living healthy lifestyles. She even demonstrated by doing a few exercises with the children.

“One of the things we feel like we should do is humanize cops,” said Julie Prayter, the department’s photographer who was there to help document Deputy Ball’s experience that day.

In addition to its Youth Services Unit, the department has a Community Relations Unit dedicated to building relationships with community members of all ages. Under the leadership of Sheriff Scott Jones, the Community Relations Unit has taken an active lead on cultivating relationships with Sacramento’s faith-based community, business community, and other stakeholders, as well as managing the department’s social media.

Sgt. Nick Goncalves, who leads the Community Relations Unit, speaks passionately about community policing. Born and raised in Sacramento and having spent more than 20 years with the department, he doesn’t separate his work from his community. “Members of our department are just members of the community who have a job,” he stated. “We are a service of our community.”

Both the Community Relations Unit and the Youth Services Unit are actively involved in events all around Sacramento County, participating in local festivals, community meetings, and even hosting an event called Unity in the Community for Sacramento families. “We see about 500 to 600 people at that event,” said Sgt. Trzcinski. “We have our bomb squad there, the police chief, and the sheriff. We open it up to the community so they can see what we actually do.”

Family is important to the department. According to both Sgt. Trzcinski and Sgt. Goncalves, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department is one big family. “We all want to make it [Sacramento] better,” Sgt. Goncalves shared. “The reason I’m so passionate about this work is because I was raised in Sacramento so I feel like I can pay it forward to our community. . . .  I’m raising two kids here. . . .  I want it to be as safe as possible for them and our future generations.”

The COPS Office congratulates the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department for being one of the 12 winners of the COPS Office 2016 Community Policing in Action Photo Contest and for its commitment to community policing.

Written with contributions from Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Nick Goncalves, Sgt. Cary Trzcinski, and Julie Prayter. Photo courtesy of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

Najla Haywood
Special Contributor
The COPS Office


1 Vision, Mission, and Values,” Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, accessed July 9, 2016,

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