Meet Captain Toni Bland
“Best decision I ever made,” said Orange County Sheriff’s Department Captain Toni Bland of her career change in the 1980’s. Born in Compton, CA, Bland joined the Army after high school and traveled the world. She moved every few months from assignment to assignment; South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, all over Europe, and Korea.
Longing for stability and the opportunity to put down roots, Bland returned to Southern California and followed in the footsteps of her mom and stepdad (both LAPD) and applied to become a Deputy Sheriff. At that time, OCSD was looking to diversify its workforce and Bland, an African-American woman with military experience, was perfectly suited. “I was hired in 90 days,” she said, a process that normally requires months. “I was focused, knew what I wanted, and got it done.”
It’s that signature straightforward approach that has served Bland well in her 24-year career with OCSD. She’s had many roles during her tenure; one of her favorites was her time as an Investigator, solving sex crimes and homicides. While the work was challenging, Bland recalls learning how to self-manage her time and assignments as one of the periods she grew and learned the most.
Now a Captain, Bland oversees the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange, the county’s largest jail housing more than 3,000 inmates. She sits at her desk overlooking a rooftop lined with barb wire and manages a team of more than 400 deputies, sheriff’s special officers and professional staff. “I love being able to mentor and coach the young deputies,” Bland said. “They are enthusiastic about their career and remind me what I love about this job.”
Captain Bob Peterson was Bland’s academy classmate and recalls running countless miles together as young recruits. “Captain Bland stands out, not because she’s an African-American female in a profession dominated by Caucasian males, but because of her excellent relational skills and common sense. She is fair yet firm and always, always does the right thing even if it’s not the popular thing.”
Bland recalls the change she’s seen in the department, watching the workforce grow and continue to diversify. “I was one of four African-American women when I was hired,” she said. “Now, we are becoming more consistent with the community we serve. It makes us better.”
To females thinking of pursuing a career in law enforcement, Bland is unequivocally encouraging. “Be a leader and a public servant,” she said. “Take on the challenge. No one is holding you back from making a difference.”