Sgt. Jeff Bohner delivered a self-deprecating and amusing talk to the Highland Kiwanis Club last week recalling his adventures over 30 years with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
“One thing about law enforcement is that you can’t really make this stuff up,” said Bohner. A resident of Yucaipa and a past president of its Kiwanis Club, he works in the Highland Police Department, which he described as “always busy.”
He said that recently a man parked his car at a gas station at Sterling Avenue and Base Line.
“He went in to pay for his gas and when he came back to his car there was a person sitting in it,” he said. “He told him to get out of his car and he refused. So the citizen did what any normal person would do — he grabbed a box cutter out of the glove box and started slashing at him.”
When a deputy arrived, the guy who was sitting in the car ran up in the middle of the intersection and said, “Hey, hey, you need to take me to jail.” The man was bleeding profusely.
“Meanwhile, the guy with the box cutter came running over” and the deputy took him down at gunpoint.
“While he was busy with him, the guy that was bleeding took off,” Bohner said. He was taken down at gunpoint, too. “At the end of the day, I think someone went to jail.”
One Kiwanian asked if he had ever been wounded.
“No, but my feelings have been hurt,” he said.
Bohner was born in New York, the oldest of six children. There’s an 18-year gap between Bohner and his youngest brother.
“My mom was pregnant for almost 20 straight years,” he said.
The family moved to California when he was 5.
When Bohner was in fourth grade, his father was active in the Catholic Church and moved the family to St. Cloud, Minn., so he could study at a seminary.
“I tell ya, it’s cold there.”
The family later went to Charleston, S.C., and then back to California — to a 300-acre ranch in Monterey County, where he became a cowboy in his teens. He went to high school in King City. Bohner said he didn’t know what he wanted to do for a living when he left high school. He studied agriculture at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and interned at a Nevada cattle ranch.
“It was old-school,” he said. “They fed us three times a day for an hour and if you were late you didn’t eat.”
It was good work, he said, but it didn’t pay lot.
“We got $14 a day and room and board,” he said, “and they got 12 hours of hard labor out of us. I didn’t think there was much of a future in that.”
Lisa Henley, a longtime services specialist in the Highland station who invited Bohner to speak, sneezed during the talk.
“Somebody must be allergic to bs,” Bohner quipped.
He dropped out of college and worked for a commercial printer for nine years, where he eventually became supervisor.
Bohner’s brother became a sheriff’s deputy for Monterey County and took Bohner ride-along. He liked the idea of working outside, and both his grandfathers had been New York City policemen.
After Monterey County declined to hire him, he took the job with San Bernardino County. His plan was to work here for a while and then move back to “God’s Country.” Instead, his wife and three children settled in Yucaipa, where they have been for almost 30 years.
Like many deputies, he started at the Central Detention Center. His first patrol assignment came in 1990 in Yucaipa when it became a city. After six of seven years in that job, he was promoted to detective and transferred to Highland, where he worked for about 18 months. He then joined the narcotics squad, where he worked for eight years.
For about five years on a task force, he worked in the basement of the Redlands Police Department.
“There were a lot of meth labs in those days,” he recalled. “I missed out on my kids growing up because I was at work all the time. If I didn’t turn in 30 hours of overtime every two weeks, I could hardly look at myself in the mirror.”
He carried a machine gun, had a company car and wore T-shirts and blue jeans in that job. Then he got promoted to sergeant. He was back working in the jail — Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center — with no car, no expense account and no overtime.
“That first year was a rough year for me,” he said.
Then he went back on patrol and landed back in Yucaipa.
“Honestly, I thought that was going to be my last stop,” Bohner said. “Great circle of life, here I am.”
It was then that he got involved with the Yucaipa Kiwanis Club, where he became board president within two years.
However, the department tends to move its employees around a lot and Bohner was sent back to Highland about a year ago, and he’s fine with that.