By Mary-Justine Lanyon
As a boy, Craig Harris came up to the family cabin in Blue Jay on weekends. They would go out in their boat in the summer, ski in the winter.
When he graduated from high school down the hill, he moved up to the mountain full time with his family. “My Dad wanted to move up here,” he said. His father became the activities and athletic director at Rim High and went on to become the principal there and the assistant principal at Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate School.
As for his career aspirations, like many boys, Harris played cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians. “I grew up next to an LAPD officer,” he said. “I liked hearing the stories he’d tell my Dad. He worked vice, narcotics, homicide.”
Inspired by the TV show CHiPs, Harris was leaning toward becoming a CHP officer. “I wanted to drive fast,” he said. “My idea of law enforcement was driving around. Mustangs were the coolest cars ever.
“Luckily, my parents talked me into going to college and getting my degree. They said that, if that was what I wanted to do, I could do it afterwards.”
After getting his BA in business administration, Harris worked retail in a number of businesses on the mountain. He worked at Leroy’s, drove the Arrowhead Queen for a year, was a butcher at Jensen’s, worked as a lake patrolman – getting the flavor of law enforcement – and worked at Bass in Lake Arrowhead Village.
Bass sent him to other stores to “fix” them. It was his time at the Cabazon store that burned him out, Harris said – the drive there every day and the uncontrollable theft.
It was at that point that he spotted a small ad in the paper for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. A light bulb went off: “That’s what I was supposed to do,” Harris said.
He applied in December 1999 and went through the six-month academy. Like most new deputies, his first assignment was at the West Valley Detention Center for four months; then he was transferred to the Central Detention Center for a year and a half. His first patrol assignment was at the Twin Peaks station.
“I always wanted to serve in the community I lived in,” Harris said. “I wanted to help my own. Not a lot of police officers like to do that – you get recognized.”
In 2007 Harris was promoted to corporal and went to the Big Bear station, where he was the watch commander for a year. He then moved to the detective bureau and was eventually transferred back to Twin Peaks in 2010 as a detective.
Harris went to homicide in 2012 and was then promoted to sergeant, returning to Twin Peaks.
When he applied to become a lieutenant, Harris said, a deputy chief told him he was doing great in Twin Peaks but they needed to see him at a busy station. He made the move to Highland, promoted to lieutenant and eventually returned to Twin Peaks in July 2021.
“And here I am,” Lt. Harris said.
On Aug. 1, he was promoted to captain, a promotion that will take effect on Aug. 26 when he also becomes the commander of the Twin Peaks station.
“When I was a brand-new deputy,” Harris said, “a field training officer told me that one day he would be working for me. I was trying to wrap my head around being a deputy. You have to get a good handle on the job, look ahead to the next step, learn what it’s all about and work toward that goal. If your desire is to promote, you need to know what you’re getting into.”
When he became a sergeant, Harris said, “I thought I’d kind of like to run this place. You become more aware of the business side of running a station.”
And that, he agreed, is where his degree comes in handy. “And the customer service stuff I learned in retail – I use that every day in this job. That’s what we do – customer service. Being able to sell people on the option of going into handcuffs nicely as opposed to Plan B, which we don’t want to do.
“We see people at their worst and at their best. Being able to talk to people, talk them through crises is really key. We push our guys to provide good customer service, to be firm and fair.”
As for his goals as commander of the Twin Peaks station, Harris said he would like to give the station a facelift inside. “I want to make the interior more comfortable, more inviting for the employees. I want to make sure they have a place they are proud to come to work.”
Reiterating the importance of good customer service, Harris said it is a top priority for him. “I think we do a good job with that. We deal with difficult situations well. We want to make sure people are OK. They should be free to live in this beautiful place without fear of being broken into, crashed into. We want to provide a safe environment for all our community members. That’s big on the sheriff’s agenda.”
Maintaining the relationships that have been established with government agencies and community groups is also key, Harris said. “When there’s an emergency, we already have a name with a face and their contact information. We want our ties with these groups to be as seamless as they can possibly be.
“It’s good,” Harris noted, “that I have been in every seat in this place with the exception of being an Explorer. Knowing it inside and out will make this transition easier.”
And as for his legacy, Harris said his job “is to embrace the new position and the responsibilities associated with it. To be the best I can be. To make sure the employees are well taken care of and, in turn, they take care of the community.
“We have to listen to the community and I will have an open door for that.”