Profile: David Diestal


Photo courtesy of Atmika Iyer

Officer David Diestal in his police vehicle.

Juvenile Detective and Deputy Sheriff of the Lost Hills Station David Diestal fights local petty
thefts, criminal threats through the phone, minor marijuana possession and vandalism.

Diestal came to the Lost Hills Police station three and a half years after the academy. After
working there for a while, he believed he had an affinity for dealing with juveniles.

“Schools, a lot of times, are unsure what’s a crime and what’s not. It’s very difficult now. It was
easier years ago,” Diestal said. “So they’ll call us, and we’ll just come over and have a consult.
Like, [if] this kid did this, said this, sent this message on his phone, do we need to contact you?
And we’ll just hash it out. Is this a crime, is this something we need to deal with? Is there a
behavioral disorder or mental illness on board? And we just try to get to the bottom of
whatever’s going on.”

One of the schools Diestal has dealt with in the past is Oak Park High School.

“Sometimes kids from [OPHS] come over here because some fights happen or whatever it is, or
kids transfer. We have a problem-child here and he transfers to Oak Park and starts doing stuff
over there, and I’ll have contact with their administration, and let them know about him. And
vise versa, they let us know about kids who’ll be a problem for us,” Diestal said.

Q/A Portion:

What is the worst crime you’ve seen as a detective here?

“Five years ago, we had a murder in Westlake Village, and it was a man who was at a party, had
too much to drink, someone said something about his wife and he shot a guy at a party in
Westlake Village. And we had one murder that had to do with mental illness. [The department
dealt with] a son who had schizophrenia, I think who killed his mother, and that was probably
ten, eleven years ago.”

What role has technology played in making your job what it is today?

“Right now cellphones make everyone think that everything that happens on the cell phone is a
crime. And that’s just not true. You have to actually investigate it and find out what actually
happened. The parties can be set up so easily: a party that was supposed to be ten people turns
into a hundred because once it goes out on social media everybody knows about it. It’s fast. The
sexting with kids is unbelievable. Kids sharing naked pics with each other. That is off the hook
in high schools, and now it’s getting down to the middle school and younger.”

What was the academy like?

“I was 42 when I went through it, and most of the guys were twenty years younger than me. I
was treated great and I kept myself in shape, so I was able to do well. It was a really good
experience. It’s about taking a civilian and making them think totally differently. You have to
think like this now. You’re no longer a civilian, you’re this. And it’s really eighteen weeks of
indoctrination into you’re going to show up at something and you’re going to take control of it.
You’re not going to show up and just watch.”

What builds the trust between you and your colleagues to be able to depend on one another in
any dangerous situation?

“I think it starts in the academy when we see what we all go through, and we see our partners go
through it. And we know all the academies before and after us all did the same thing. We know
everybody here did the same thing we did to get here. We all went through that stuff. And then
you go out on a daily basis and you work with these people and you develop a second hand
language where you’re not even talking, you know what he person is thinking.”

How do you deal with teens?

“People sometimes lose sight of the fact that people under eighteen, they’re still forming.
They’re going to make tons of mistakes. If you think young adults aren’t going to make
mistakes, you’re living in a dream world, they are. And do we throw away the key and put them
in jail forever, or de we give them a second chance?”

What approach do you take when dealing with juveniles?

“Law enforcement is always taken as hard and fast, black and white . . . When it comes to our
juvenile population, there has to be another aspect to it. There has to be some compassion and
some understanding there. We were all kids, people forget that. We were all making those stupid

What is your favorite part of the job?

“I like when we have a success. We don’t really see how the story ends. You do on television
and the movies, but we are here for the beginning of it, the arrest part of it, the trouble part of it,
the put-him- in-therapy part of it and we never really get the path at the end. When those
moments happen, those are great. Like a parent would say, you remember my son, now he’s
doing this now. Those are the greatest.”