Related story: San Bernardino County Sheriff Rod Hoops to retire
Rod Hoops was a 26-year-old sheriff's deputy who had been on the job just four years when he received a call about an assault with a deadly weapon in Chino Hills one quiet morning in 1983.
That day turned into the most memorable day of Hoops' 34-year career in law enforcement.
"I can remember the deputy standing at the door very pale-looking," Hoops said. "I asked, `What do we got?' He said, `It's horrible."'
Hoops was one of the first three deputies to witness the aftermath of the Kevin Cooper massacre, one of the most notorious murders in San Bernardino County history.
"I can still smell the crime scene because there was so much blood," he said. "It's a scene that is ingrained in my mind."
That memory stayed with him as he moved up the career ladder, eventually reaching the position of San Bernardino County sheriff in 2009. And despite that memory's prominence, he said there are far more positive memories he plans to carry with him into retirement in December.
Less than four years into his time as sheriff, Hoops announced this week he would leave to take on a job as a law enforcement researcher for the Police Foundation. Though the organization is based in Washington, D.C., he said he plans to stay in Highland.
Hoops, 55, said his decision to leave was not based on any scandals, investigations or other tough situations he faced as sheriff. Those are situations that many police chiefs and sheriffs encounter, he said.
"There wasn't one single event that made me say, `Enough is enough,"' he said.
It was a matter of timing.
Former Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann approached Hoops about the Police Foundation job. Bueermann, the organization's president, wanted a West Coast representative on board.
And with Hoops' son leaving to go to college, he felt it was the right time to make the change.
"Sometimes they say you need to go out when you're on top," he said.
Capt. David Williams, who heads the sheriff's Highland station, said the transition to new leadership should be smooth, but Hoops will be missed.
Williams said he learned from Hoops the value of caring for others and being a "people person."
"Sheriff Hoops has been an incredible mentor for me," Williams said. "I will miss him very much."
Highland business owner Phil Goodrich, who has known Hoops for 13 years and coached youth sports with him, echoed Williams' comments.
He said he had to ask his wife what Hoops' job was years ago because he came across as such an unassuming person that he couldn't tell he was a cop.
"I've seen this guy get mad, and it's funny because he doesn't do it very well," Goodrich said. "And then he apologizes for it afterward."
Hoops said he decided to leave the Sheriff's Department about five months ago, but waited until Wednesday to make the announcement because he didn't want the news to overshadow the election.
Though he said the challenges he has faced in the last year played no role in his departure, he doesn't discount the amount of stress that went into his job.
"The last four years have been brutal," he said.
He took the reins amid a recession and managed to avoid any layoffs.
He helped the Sheriff's department open and renovate several sheriff's stations, including those in Highland, Hesperia and San Bernardino International Airport.
Hoops also takes credit for making middle management and the upper ranks more diverse. He said there are more black deputies in middle management than ever before, and he wants to increase the number of Latino supervisors as well.
One of his proudest accomplishments is pushing more deputies to pursue higher education, particularly for the ranks of captain and above.
"In five years, I can look back and say I had a major part in that," he said.
Hoops plans to spend about two weeks going around to all of the stations to say goodbye.
He wants to spend his last work day the same way he did on his very first shift with the Sheriff's Department.
He wants to work from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. at Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center in Devore, the same hours he worked 34 years ago.
"When I walk out of there at 7 a.m., that will be it," he said.
Reach Melissa via email or call her at 909-386-3878.
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