This column was contributed by San Benito County Sheriff Captain Eric Taylor. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
I would like to take my first column as an opportunity to introduce myself. I am Eric Taylor and I serve you as the operations captain for the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office. I am writing this in an effort to bring clarity to the role of law enforcement in our communities of Hollister, San Juan Bautista and San Benito County.
Nationally, there is a disconnect forming between law enforcement and the communities they serve. I am not insinuating that problem exists here, however, I feel it is “our” role to take proactive steps to mitigate there ever being conflict or misunderstanding locally. I will qualify my opinions with case law, best practices and published office policy.
To understand my qualifications to opine in matters of public safety, I would like to provide a brief synopsis of my experience and expertise. I am in my 20th year of law enforcement. I began my career with the Watsonville Police Department in 2000. While there, I was first assigned to patrol as an officer, then on the Direct Action Response Team (DART) which handled issues with gang violence, narcotics sales, violent crimes, and neighborhood problems. Following my success in DART, I was assigned to be a corporal for six years which made me a field training officer and assistant watch commander (supervisor). Next, I was assigned as Watsonville’s first dedicated gang crimes detective. I held that position for 20 months where I completed 77 gang cases with 76 convictions. In that role, I testified as a court-certified gang-expert in 34 cases in Santa Cruz County Superior Court and once for the Grand Jury in “Operation Red-Bull.” I was also used as an expert for a gang-homicide in Lodi, CA where we also secured a conviction. I promoted to sergeant in 2009 where I ran a patrol shift for a period of time prior to returning to the Detective Bureau as the supervisor in 2013. I then competed for and was hired as a captain for the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office in June 2014. Since then I have been the operations commander for Sheriff Darren Thompson where I have run two divisions, administration and operations. Additionally, since 2000, I have been a use-of-force instructor and expert. I have testified as a use-of-force expert in both superior and federal court. I taught administration of justice at the high school level at Pajaro Valley High School and I continue to teach for Axon (formerly Taser International) in the use and theory of conducted energy weapons.
I guess that wasn’t as brief as I had hoped. However, I feel you should know a person’s qualifications if you are expected to take their opinion seriously.
California has 58 counties and approximately 480 municipalities. Therefore, there are 58 sheriffs and hundreds of police chiefs. Many municipalities are “incorporated cities.” Of those, many cities maintain their own police department. The city of Santa Clara has the last elected police chief, all others serve at the pleasure of their council or mayor/city manager. Those that do not maintain their own police department may contract for police services with another law enforcement agency. This is the case in San Juan Bautista. San Juan Bautista is an incorporated city; however, they do not maintain a police department. The city contracts with our office for what equates to one deputy sheriff position (25% coverage).
The sheriff is elected and there is only one sheriff in each county. Everyone that works for the sheriff is a deputy sheriff, or sheriff’s deputy. In our office there are a series of ranks. The entry-level rank is deputy, the next level is sergeant (supervisor), and there are captains (administrators) who all collectively serve to support the sheriff. Our sheriff is Darren Thompson. In our county, Sheriff Thompson is also the coroner and acts as what used to be referred to as the county marshall.
The Sheriff is mandated to provide five functions anywhere in the county, including municipalities:
- Court Security
- Civil Processes
- Corrections (Jail)
- Search and Rescue
We have Memorandums of Understanding, or contracts, with the following agencies:
- California Highway Patrol (CHP) for traffic related policing in the unincorporated areas
- Hollister Police Department for Animal Control Services
- Monterey County Sheriff’s Office for SWAT, Explosives and Hostage Negotiation
- Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office for Medical Examiner duties (autopsy)
There are many other partners we work with. We have federal partners such as the FBI, Homeland Security, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management. We have state partners such as Department of Fish and Wildlife (enforce laws pertaining to waterways, hunting, environment, etc), state parks (police Hollister Hills and our state parks in the county) and the Highway Patrol (handle all traffic related issues and accidents in the unincorporated areas). Last, we have local partners like the Hollister Police Department and other surrounding municipal police agencies.
That is just a quick overview of our public safety system here in San Benito County. All of these agencies work in partnership to make San Benito County a safe, beautiful place to live.
If there are any public safety-related topics you are interested in hearing about, please email me at [email protected] I will do my best to incorporate your questions into my column.