Capt. Deb Kiner became the office's second female captain on May 14.
For as long as she can remember, Deb Kiner wanted to be in law enforcement.
What type of public service that would take, however, was a fluid concept.
“I grew up in the area, I just had a calling for (law enforcement),” Kiner said. “... When I was 16, I called the FBI and was like ‘How do I become an agent?’ ”
While a teenager's idea of life as a federal agent never materialized, Kiner did find a home in law enforcement. In 2004, after completing college, she joined the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. She's been there ever since, but it didn't take long before she started looking for milestones.
“I noticed there were no sergeants in patrol that were females or lieutenants, it was just all it was mostly males,” she said. “I thought ‘I think I could be a sergeant’ and so from very early on in my career, I started working towards that.”
With some success.
She became sergeant, followed by lieutenant, and now has become something more. Kiner was recently promoted to Captain assigned to the courts and corrections division of the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office — the second female captain in the organization’s history. It’s a position she feels she’s earned through hard work and the ability to make hard decisions with employees.
“You have supervisors who won't document things on employees and are afraid to have those hard conversations,” Kiner said. “ If you're not doing your job or we're not taking care of things the way we need to take care of them, I'm going to tell you … I didn't get promoted just because I'm a female … I'm a player in this agency.”
Kiner grew up in Venice and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in criminology and that ultimate goal of joining the FBI. Her plans shifted when her father developed cancer and she moved back to the Venice area to support him. She credits her parents for being supportive of her decision to join the force and a positive influence on her life.
From there she joined the Sheriff’s department. Six and a half years later she was promoted to sergeant and then lieutenant six years after that. She was only in that role for three years before becoming captain. Each step along the way has had different challenges and rewards.
“Being a deputy, you're the boots on the ground,” Kiner said. “And then being a sergeant, you have a squad of about five to seven people that report to you. (They) were like my kids before I had kids … As a lieutenant, you get to start into that more of the decision-making and the big picture.”
Where she was once a lieutenant working within a larger system, Kiner now has five lieutenants reporting to her when working with the jail. It’s a change of pace, but that variety keeps her excited with the job.
“I've gone from patrol to criminal investigations to homeless outreach team, and I've never gotten bored because I've always learning something new,” she said.
A constant during these 16 years has been a steady focus on her career – Kiner says she’s had several mentors who have helped her get to where she is today. Deb Kasper, the first female captain in the sheriff's office’s history, worked with Kiner as school resource officers before she made sergeant and eventually captain herself.
Kiner is aware of the gender discrepancy in law enforcement, and though she doesn’t view herself as a special case, recognizes the significance of her position. She figures it will be take around a year to become settled with her new role and looks forward to getting a handle on things.
“I just want to make an impact,” she said. “I know it's a big deal, but I don't really think it's a big deal.”