Matthew S. Vander Horck is the new Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff Station Captain and comes to the position with one goal in mind—“to be as good as [former Captain] Josh Thai, or even better.”
Born and raised in Long Beach, Calif., Vander Horck has been serving with the LASD since 1993. He is also the third generation in his family to serve as a first responder—his father was an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department.
This is Vander Horck’s first time at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, having previously served at the Century City Sheriff’s Station for the past five years.
He received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and earned a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Cal State Long Beach. While attending college, he worked in the field as a reserve police officer at the Harbor Division in the City of Los Angeles.
Vander Horck has had experience across LA County—he started working in the Hollywood jail in 1991, eventually moving to the Century City, Lakewood and Compton stations.
Vander Horck said he gravitated toward law enforcement because of his father, an LAPD officer.
“When I was growing up, my dad was my hero,” Vander Horck said. “He was Superman, Batman, Spider-Man all rolled into one. I want[ed] to be just like him.”
When Vander Horck told his father he was taking criminal justice classes, his dad thought he wouldn’t last long on the job.
“He worked LAPD and he thought it would be so strict on me that I would quit, that I was going to be a dentist or something else—but it backfired; I loved it,” Vander Horck said. “I started working three to five shifts a week for free as a reserve and, by luck, I ended up on the sheriff’s department.”
When he was starting out, Vander Horck said, he didn’t realize how extensive the tasks of the sheriff’s department were, outside traditional police work.
“To the courts, to the custody, from the mountains to the beaches of Malibu and everything in between,” Vander Horck said, listing off areas overseen by the department. “From the search and rescue—the list goes on.”
Vander Horck previously was a lieutenant and was promoted to second in command at the Lakewood station.
“I was acting captain there for a few months, so it gave me an idea how to relate to city managers, city councils and people in the community and find out what their needs are,” Vander Horck said. “I think that’s where I really learned that, what I might [think] is important, isn’t [necessarily] important to that community.”
“I might think that burglaries or robberies might be the biggest thing, but it might be equality, life insurance or homelessness,” Vander Horck said. “It taught me how to be in touch with the cities’ needs.”
For two-and-a-half years, Vander Horck worked with recruiting units to attract and hire in the department.
Vander Horck said working in different departments gave him an idea that every community has different needs.
“When I came to Compton Station, gangs and narcotics were the two biggest things at that time,” Vander Horck said. “So, the community was very proactive working with us; they were invested in this community and they wanted to see a difference.”
Lieutenant Jennifer Seetoo, Malibu’s liaison with the Lost Hills Station, has known Captain Vander Horck for many years and said she was looking forward to working with him.
“One thing that most people don’t know about Matt is he’s a fourth degree blackbelt in Judo—so I think I can take him, so we’re good,” Seetoo joked. “I’m really happy to have him here and for him to be our new captain.”
To prepare for his role as captain, Vander Horck took classes in leadership at a Marine Corps base in Virginia.
“I have a very fresh perspective on this. The philosophy I took from there, I kind of put in play all these years and made it more impactful for me,” Vander Horck said. “I’m in my second week right now and I’m concentrating on my employees.”
Vander Horck wants to give his employees the best work environment possible, as well as the resources they need to do their jobs.
“I think it’s important for my employees and the city to know that I’m here to maintain—and, if I can, improve upon—the quality service that they are accustomed to under [former Captain] Josh Thai,” Vander Horck said.
Vander Horck took over command after the medical retirement of Thai.
“I have spent a lot of time with him in the last few weeks and he’s been very helpful,” Vander Horck said. “In terms of big shoes to fit, he was loved by the people and the city. You can be a very effective captain without being loved, so I would like to do both. My goal is to be as good as Josh Thai or even better.”