Buttonwillow Substation began with a resident deputy working from his home. As with other resident deputies of the era (1930s), the deputy was on duty and subject to call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Buttonwillow area was confined to the community of Buttonwillow and the farmland and oilfields immediately surrounding it. The migrant workers that filled the cotton camps during the picking season would swell the population by 5,000 people and gave the resident deputy plenty of work.
For many years prisoners had to be driven into Bakersfield for booking at the main jail. In 1940 a two-cell jail was built at Mirasol and Second. Since it had no office, the deputy still had to work from his home. The jail cells were designed to hold two or three prisoners each, but it was not unusual to have up to 20 prisoners over a weekend if a brawl broke out at a dance or one of the cotton camps. On Monday morning the prisoners were taken to appear before the resident judge who held court in an office in back of his grocery store.
In the early 1950s a Sheriff's Substation was built in the county building next to the Buttonwillow Justice Court at Miller and First. The station had two holding cells attached to it. In 1956 the area became a two-man station, serving a 300 square mile area. The station area did not yet extend to the western county border. The deputies were regularly assisted by a group of Reserves from the community. The station was the first station to have canines assigned outside of the Bakersfield area. In the late 1960s use of the jail was discontinued due to state regulations requiring prisoner supervision. The service area was expanded to 504 square miles and a sergeant was added to the station in 1971.
Today, the Buttonwillow Substation provides law enforcement services to the residents and visitors to the northwestern portion of Kern County. This includes the townships and communities of Buttonwillow, Lost Hills, Belridge, Blackwell’s Corner, Keck’s Corner, Spicer City, Devil’s Den, and the unincorporated areas around the cities of Shafter, and Wasco. This area encompasses about 1500 Sq. miles of farming, ranching, and oil industries.
One sergeant, two senior deputies, nine patrol deputies, and one Office Services Technician staff the Substation. The substation also provides a bailiff to the Shafter Superior Court. The Buttonwillow Substations current supervisor is Sergeant Martin Downs.
Deputies from the Buttonwillow Substation enjoy a good working relationship with the allied agencies within this area, the California Highway Patrol, Shafter Police Department, Fish and Game, and our boundary counties of Kings, Tulare, and San Luis Obispo are a few of these agencies.
With its vast geographic area and varied communities, the Buttonwillow Substation is a diverse assignment giving the Sheriff's Office employee experiences and challenges needed by the professional law enforcement officer of today. Yet it offers them the chance of being fully integrated into community oriented policing and working in partnership with the communities they serve.