Calif. sheriff seeks fifth term: 'I have adapted to and driven change'

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown believes experience is needed to weather troubled and uncertain times


By Dave Minsky
Santa Maria Times, Calif.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. — Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, who is seeking his fifth term in office, believes that experience is needed to weather troubled and uncertain times.

If re-elected on June 7, Brown said he plans to collaboratively address the opioid crisis, and continue working with officials to improve services, maintain public safety and reduce jail populations. Brown includes his department's responses to 18 major wildfires in the county during his tenure, and the 1/9 debris flow as examples of his leadership.

Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown on his 2014 re-election campaign for sheriff in Santa Barbara County, California.
Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown on his 2014 re-election campaign for sheriff in Santa Barbara County, California. (Bill Brown)

"Change is inevitable, but I have shown over the years that I have adapted to and driven change," Brown said. "I think I have delivered for the people of Santa Barbara County and have worked diligently in my job to protect people during [not only] in rough times, but in times of disaster."

Brown said he first became interested in law enforcement after taking a high school class called "police role in government", taught by former Los Angeles Police officer Ted Ashby, who planted the seed for what became a decades-long career.

Additionally, Brown cites the TV police show "Adam-12" as inspiration. No one else in Brown's family had been in law enforcement before him and he had no examples to draw from, he said.

In addition to his years of experience, Brown refers to his training at top national schools including the FBI's National Academy and National Executive Institute, as an example of his qualifications for the position.

"[Ted] really introduced me to what policing is all about in the community," Brown said. "It's in my blood, it's what gives me a personal sense of satisfaction, reward and accomplishment."

As the incumbent, Brown touts accomplishments including the $119 million Northern Branch Jail project that was completed in December 2021. Brown delivered on his promise to not only get a jail built, but one that contains 376 beds with numerous rehabilitation programs that include vocational training.

Brown also cites the introduction of several technological advancements, including the use of Rapid DNA analysis, which was used to identify the victims of the Conception dive boat fire, revamped computer-aided dispatch and records management systems and the 2018 deployment of mental health co-response teams that include a deputy and behavioral wellness employee.

[RELATED: How the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office is using Rapid DNA technology]

Of the more than 3,000 service calls for people in crisis during the first year of the teams' deployment, Brown said the teams handled more than 1,600 of them, and only 11 resulted in arrest of an individual that prompted the call.

"[The program] remarkably shows the benefit of having a clinician and cop teamed up together to address those issues," Brown said, referring to the co-response teams.

[RELATED: How the SBSO's mental health co-response term maintains community safety]

More technology is on the way, he said, including body-worn cameras that Brown hopes to have in use two months from now, a license plate reader system and a cloud-based digital system used to send evidence to the District Attorney's Office.

Brown said one of his biggest priorities is the opioid/fentanyl crisis. On Wednesday, Brown unveiled Project Opioid, a collaborative effort between local law enforcement, medical professionals, nonprofit officials and others to reduce deaths from opioid drugs in the county. That includes reducing the stigma of drug usage, he added.

In response to the civil unrest resulting from the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, an event that Brown called "an aberration," the sheriff said he was quick to implement reform, but also stated that much had been done previously, including the adoption of use-of-force policies.

"We have a culture of treating people the right way, we have a culture of developing relationships with people in all walks of life," Brown said. "I take issue with assertions that we have to work on rebuilding trust in the community. I don't believe we've ever lost trust in the community we've served."

First elected in 2006, Brown has served as sheriff for the last 15 years and prior to that, served 11 years as Lompoc Police Chief and three years as chief of police in Moscow, Idaho. Before he led departments, Brown served 12 years as a police officer in Inglewood and has experience working as a an emergency medical technician and paramedic.

Brown has endorsements from several organizations and local prominent individuals including District Attorney Joyce Dudley, retired Santa Maria Police Chief Phil Hansen and the California Police Chiefs' Association.

RELATED: The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office has seen considerable success from a wellness team designed to help cops cope

(c)2022 Santa Maria Times, Calif.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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