I am leading the charge to create a new Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) at the San Luis Obispo County Jail, to provide behavioral therapy services and housing for inmates suffering from mental illness. The Sheriff’s Advisory Foundation (SAF) has agreed to support the project and has identified it as one of its major projects for 2018. As a nonprofit entity, the SAF can accept private donations for the BHU that will enable the unit to be operational sooner than it would going through the County government procurement process. The SAF has provided a lead gift of $50,000 and to date, approximately $272,000 has been committed toward the estimated $500,000 project budget. Target date for the facility to be operational is before the end of the year.
Earlier this year, I created the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) position at the Sheriff’s Office. This position will have oversight over medical and mental health in the jail. The CMO will report directly to the Sheriff and all budget and control over inmate medical and mental health will finally and appropriately, be transferred to the Sheriff’s Office. This is the first time in the history of our county that the Sheriff’s Office will have management, supervision and control over medical and mental health services in the jail. Numerous other changes will occur in this area under the direction of the Sheriff, and input and consultation will continue from the Sheriff’s Task Force on Mental Illness/Stepping Up Planning Committee.
I promised when I was elected to be a visible and transparent Sheriff, and I have kept my promise. Since elected, I have regularly held county-wide town hall meetings. Over 30 public outreach meetings have been held to seek input on the public safety needs of our residents. In addition, I speak at different community events and meetings and have supported many non-profit and community organizations in the county.
Partnering with the local Chiefs of Police, the Sheriff's Office led a project that included response training, response maps for 100 schools, and a phone app panic button for school staff at nearly every school in the county. I know of no county in the state that has developed a plan of this magnitude or that provides this added level of safety and response to school incidents. This was a three-year process funded by the Department of Homeland Security.
I deployed additional deputies on the street (force multiplier) by having three civil deputies in marked cars and adding four new K-9 units that were deployed across the county, one at each patrol station. This augments existing resources by reducing the need to include a second deputy in a vehicle with a K-9. These resources were added at no cost to the taxpayer. In addition, I added another K-9 to the jail to search for contraband. I increased the number of field supervisors by rotating commanders in the Watch Commander office, in order to deploy a patrol sergeant in the field.
A new women’s jail opened in 2017. This project had languished since 2009, but soon after being elected Sheriff in February of 2011, I secured approval to build the jail and opened the facility six years later. The prior facility had long been the subject of Grand Jury reports and public concern. As part of this project we modernized the entire security system at our existing jails. We added 150 new security cameras, upgraded the security locking system and added an employee "person down" alarm system.
In response to demands for changes related to the jail, I recognized that the custody environment required a seamless chain of command through the executive level. I created the Correctional Captain position which has been an invaluable asset when incorporating the operational changes related to AB 109 and Prop 64.
The Sheriff's Office procured a Humvee to be used by the Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue team during missions. We are also in the process of purchasing, through a private donation, a drone that is capable of carrying a FLIR and 30 power zoom camera to be used during search and rescue missions.
We designed, constructed, and opened a new local state-of-the-art county morgue, at no added taxpayer cost. This is the first such facility dedicated exclusively for use by the Coroner since that role was placed under the control of the Sherriff’s Office in the early 1900’s. I also hired the county’s first full-time Pathologist to supervise operations at the facility.
The State removed itself from participation in our local Narcotics Task Force. I proactively and positively responded by assuming complete control over the operation of the Task Force, and re-assigning personnel to both the Sheriff's Narcotics and the expanded Gang Task Force so as to better coordinate response to both issues. In addition, I added two more deputies, a Pismo Beach Police Officer and a probation officer to the gang unit. We have three "street teams" deployed that are focused primarily on gang activity throughout the county.
The Sheriff's Office and the Probation and County Drug and Alcohol Services are now partnered in the jail to provide treatment to change behavior and reduce recidivism. I tripled the number of inmate education and rehabilitation programs in the jail and added a job skills training program. I increased the number of community volunteer organizations coming into the jail to provide inmate services. All these programs are designed to change behavior and keep inmates from re-offending, and I started this program prior to the adoption of AB109.
In order to reduce risk to employees and inmates at the jail, I added a Narcotics K-9 to the custody team to help identify and reduce narcotics being brought onto the premises. We now use a body scanner to help prevent the smuggling of foreign objects and narcotics into the facility. Additionally, we added a new state-of-the-art device that is used to scan mail and identify narcotics.
I started the new Professional Standards and Internal Affairs Unit and assigned to it a Commander with significant experience in personnel investigations. I purchased a new computer tracking system to improve documentation and accountability. The new system allows the tracking of use of force, pursuits and traffic collisions. This helps to minimize liability and allows for early identification of potential problems.
In 2013, I opened a new Property / Evidence Room. This was done with Public Facilities Fees (PFF) and at no additional cost to local taxpayers. The deficiencies of the property evidence room had been reported by the Grand Jury prior to my election to which I promptly responded.
We moved the Evidence Room to a new location and updated our software to streamline and improve the operations of this facility. The new system allows for easier processing, storage, retrieval and purging of information from the system. We started a new annual audit process that is conducted under the direction of the Professional Standards Unit.
We replaced an outdated and unreliable radio system with a new Radio Over Internet Protocol (ROIP) system. The ROIP system allows the Sheriff's Office to transmit to municipal law enforcement agencies on their frequencies. This was funded through budget savings.
I replaced the outdated CD-based recording cameras being used in patrol vehicles with a new digital video recording system. With this new system the digital videos taken during patrol vehicle operations are automatically downloaded when the vehicle returns to the station.
I added a video visitation system at the jail that allows inmates to visit with family members who may not live in the area. It also allows inmates to visit with children without exposure to the jail environment. The inmates’ attorneys can also use the video visitation system to conduct business related to their case.
The Sheriff’s Office contracted with the Arroyo Grande Police Department and the Morro Bay Police Department to take over their dispatching operations. This saved both cities money and added additional resources to Sheriff's Dispatch.
We are working with Cal Fire on building a co-located dispatch center on Kansas Ave. This will combine our resources and make us both more efficient. This project is planned to be funded primarily through Public Facilities Fund (PFF), Proposition 172 funds and the state.
The Gang Resistance Education and Training Program (GREAT Program) replaced the DARE program and is taught throughout schools in unincorporated SLO County. It targets reducing violence in schools and focuses on preventing our children from joining gangs. In addition, the Sheriff Summer Camps were developed to model the GREAT program. The Summer Camps teach many of the same life-lessons that are being taught in the schools and brings together youth from different geographical areas in the county o form friendships and break down territorial areas created by gangs.
Following the retirement of our local contractor, the county found itself without a local resource to provide alcohol and blood analysis for driving under the influence cases. The Sheriff's Office worked with the County District Attorney's Office to provide this service through the Sheriff's Office Forensic Lab with a Forensic Lab Specialist.
The Sheriff's Office, for the first time in its 268 year history, formed an official Honor Guard. The Honor Guard brings a sense of pride and camaraderie to the agency. The Honor Guard has presented at numerous special events, ceremonies and funerals throughout the county.
The Sheriff's Office took a proactive approach to combating Panga Boat activity that was occurring on our ocean border. The Sheriff's Office led almost all coastal counties in the state for the highest seizure rate and arrest rate related to this illegal activity. The Sheriff's Office was also able to purchase a Defender class vessel utilizing Homeland Security grant funding to provide ocean patrols.
Recognizing the importance of keeping current with software, we replaced the entire software program at the Civil Division. The Sheriff's Office is currently in the process of replacing the Jail Management system and Records Management system. The Sheriff's Office collaborated with the local law enforcement agencies in an effort to give them an opportunity to upgrade their systems.