Afghanistan. Iraq. The Berlin Wall. And now, La Cañada Flintridge.
Steven Gross’ military career has taken him around the world, and his 20-plus years of service in law enforcement have landed him as the second-in-command at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station, serving under Capt. Dave Silversparre.
Gross, 47, continues to serve in the Air Force reserves even as he patrols La Cañada and La Crescenta. But he says he’s enjoying his run at the Crescenta Valley Station.
“As you can imagine, not all communities are the same,” Gross said. “People here are very open-armed, very helpful.”
Just as his military career has taken him from peacetime Germany to war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan, he has seen a range of duties in the sheriff’s department, from multi-agency gang investigations in Palmdale to his current role.
Gross enlisted in the army in 1984. He served as a paratrooper sniper and scout in the 82nd Airborne Division until 1990.
“I went all over the world,” Gross said. “I was stationed in Italy, went to Panama… to Germany when the Cold War was going on. Just being overseas was fun. Other than the Cold War there really wasn’t a lot of things going on at that time, unlike now.”
Gross said that he has a piece of the Berlin Wall he picked up when his unit helped secure Checkpoint Charlie, the most famous crossing between East and West Germany, as the wall came down in 1987.
After getting his discharge from the Army, Gross entered the sheriff’s academy, where he earned the designation of honor graduate in his class. Although he said his marksmanship probably helped out then, the core values he learned in the army prepared him best for the civilian role.
“Not so much the infantry skills or the shooting skills,” said Gross. “I know that sounds good, but the reality is it’s just the responsibility that the army teaches you, that’s what helps you to thrive in the sheriff’s department.”
Silversparre said Gross has “brought great experience to the station, including leadership experience which he uses to mentor the staff.”
With tight budgets affecting government agencies including the sheriff’s department, leadership also requires getting out in the field. Gross and other lieutenants must go out on patrol every other week.
“I enjoy it, because my heart is being a deputy,” said Gross. “It takes me out of the admin grind once every other week to go out and handle calls, make arrests, write tickets.”
Meanwhile, Gross continues to have military responsibilities. He joined the Air Force reserve in 1994, and serves in the Office of Special Investigations. As part of the OSI, Gross’ duties have ranged from investigating a 1998 triple homicide-suicide at Edwards Air Force Base to — mostly recently — traveling to Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar and Yemen to manage base security.
“We have to police our own soldiers, but we also have to protect the bases,” he said. “The Army is out fighting, but our job is to protect the base.”
Gross says he is now thinking about leaving the Air Force reserve and putting the heavy travel behind him – although he’s got an overseas mission coming up in the next few weeks.
“It’s a real juggle,” said Gross. “It’s hard on me, it’s hard on the family, every time you go abroad.”