Sonoma County’s youngest cop is a Sonoma High grad
At just 25 years of age, Sonoma Deputy Sheriff Robert Woodworth is the youngest officer in the county law enforcement office.
“People don’t recognize the age gap,” he says before adding, “and it’s good for relating to people who are younger.”
Woodworth was hired at the sheriff’s office as soon as he turned 21, the youngest age possible to become a law enforcement officer in California. After graduating from Sonoma Valley High School in 2013, Woodworth knew exactly what he wanted to do next.
He moved out of his parents’ Sonoma home and enrolled in Santa Rosa Junior College for two years, where he studied criminal justice and became a police intern with the Santa Rosa Junior College police department. Woodworth had just graduated from the police academy in Windsor in 2016 when he joined the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office as a deputy.
Woodworth doesn’t have a family history of serving in the police force. His father is a local clothing designer, his brother works in a bank, and he grew up with a stay-at-home mom. Woodworth developed the interest early on, however. “Law enforcement is something I’ve always been interested in,” he says. “I liked the idea of being approached with a problem and being able to find a solution.”
To this day, it’s Woodworth’s favorite part of his job. “Helping someone in a bad position,” he says is the most satisfying — “helping them get out of that spot”.
Through his role as deputy sheriff, assigned to the city of Sonoma, Woodworth says he has managed to form relationships with Sonoma’s homeless population. “I contact a homeless subject in Sonoma every day,” he says. “They come to you with issues,” and Woodworth offers the help that he can.
“Every day is a new day with new challenges,” he said.
Woodworth has served as a deputy sheriff for almost four years now. “These years have flown by,” he says, “quicker than anything else I have experienced.” But he’s not ready to celebrate the milestone just yet. “The big mark will be hitting my five-year mark,” he says. When it does, he will have a close community to celebrate with.
Joining the police force “created a family I didn’t know I would ever have,” Woodworth says. “If there’s an incident, or I get hurt, the amount of people that reach out to me from the sheriff’s office is tremendous.”
Woodworth is lucky to have a tight-knit community not only in the sheriff’s office, but also in the very community he serves. “I’m always surprised by the neighborly love in Sonoma,” says Woodworth. “Everyone has each other’s back out here.”
He’s especially feeling the Sonoma love now. As a first responder during the coronavirus pandemic, Woodworth says he gets flagged down regularly by citizens who just want to say, “Thank you.”
Now especially is an important time to stay visible to the public, says Woodworth. “We want the public to know that we’re still out there,” he says. “We’re still the deputies you need us to be. We’re here supporting the community.”
The public health guidelines and shelter-in-place orders have, however, changed the nature of Woodworth’s role around town. Officers like Woodworth are increasingly tasked with teaching people how to properly social distance and when they can and can’t go outside. He has responded to a couple of calls about people not following guidelines properly.
On Mother’s Day, he was alerted about a group celebrating the holiday in a local park. Woodworth arrived to clarify the rules about gathering in large groups and explain the dangers of doing so during the outbreak. “It was more of an educational moment,” he says.
Social distance guidelines apply even inside the sheriff’s office, and in public, Deputy Woodworth is always wearing a mask and staying six feet away from people. There are times, like when an arrest is taking place, when social distance isn’t feasible. “We still have a job to do,” says Woodworth, “and that job requires us to get close to people sometimes.”
Woodworth still has a few years left in his assignment to the City of Sonoma after which he can return to the main office in Santa Rosa, apply for a promotion, or find himself a different assignment. Woodworth is looking forward to the opportunities the Sheriff’s Office offers. He has 35 years as an officer ahead of him, and he is beginning to make goals of what he would like to try out next.
Serving as a deputy on the “Henry 1” helicopter unit and doing aerial pursuits or mountain rescues come to mind, as does working with the county’s Marine Unit and helping boaters after crashes.
However, Woodworth says he is in no rush to leave. “I would like to stay in Sonoma for as long as I can,” he says. After all, he has the time.