Before I begin my column, I want to first wish everyone a very happy, safe and prosperous 2019! We are so blessed to live in a county with so much natural beauty. We have everything, the ocean, the hills and the desert. But most of all, we have the people who care about our communities. We are grateful to have a very safe county. That’s in large part due to you, for helping us keep our neighborhoods and communities safe and secure. With that in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to offer you an assessment of where we’ve been and what the future holds for us in San Luis Obispo County. Think of it as the first annual State of the Sheriff’s Office.

One of the biggest challenges, which ended up being one of our biggest changes, is in the area of medical and mental health services in our County Jail. Topping the list of changes is the hiring of a new Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Christy Mulkerin, in February 2018. Hiring a Chief Medical Officer for the jail offers one point of contact for all medical and mental health care, increasing communication regarding inmates’ health. We also outsourced all medical, mental health and dental services to a private company that has expertise with in-custody health care. This group of health professionals will report directly to Dr. Mulkerin who in turn will report directly to the Sheriff.

Not only will this change provide expanded healthcare to inmates but it will do it at a significant cost saving to the County. Another change we unveiled in 2018 was a smartphone app to help in active shooter situations in schools. We announced in November that most public and private schools in San Luis Obispo County now have access to the Rave Panic Button Smart Phone App. This app is designed to immediately alert law enforcement of an active shooter incident on a school campus. The app provides every school employee the ability to immediately connect to the 911 Dispatch Center for their school and at the same time send a message to the other employees on the campus of the incident. We are fortunate we haven’t had a tragic event like that in our schools in the County. But we wanted to be prepared in the event there was an incident. We are the first County in California to roll out this new technology.

And speaking of technological advancements, in August of last year, we debuted our new Sheriff’s Office mobile phone app. This free app is available to the public to download to their smartphones. It contains many of the same features you can find on our website like inmate information, press releases, and all the different Sheriff’s Office programs and how you can get involved. It also has new features like our Most Wanted Wednesday segment where every Wednesday we feature a person wanted by the Sheriff’s Office and a list of their crimes. The app also features push notifications and alerts. You will be able to receive updates on breaking news notifications like wildland fire evacuations or severe weather alerts directly to your phone. And it’s all in a convenient mobile app designed to provide improved communication with the citizens we serve by providing public safety news and information. It’s just one more way you can stay connected to the Sheriff’s Office.

And finally, at the end of 2018, we had to say goodbye to some old friends and say hello again to some new ones. In November, Chief Deputy Ron Hastie, retired after a 31-year career at the Sheriff’s Office. And last month, my Undersheriff, Tim Olivas, also retired after a long distinguished career in law enforcement. We will miss them both and wish them well in their retirements.

I have chosen some top-notch people here at the Sheriff’s Office to take over their positions. I selected Commander Jim Taylor for the Chief Deputy position and Commander Jim Voge as Undersheriff for my second-in-command. Both men are highly regarded both by their peers and in the community. We are lucky to have them on board.

That is just a small sample of the accomplishments of the Sheriff’s Office over the past year. Of course, my thanks also go out to the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office who dedicate themselves every day to providing safety and security to the citizens of the County. And with that, we look forward to a new year with new possibilities.