Ian Parkinson would re-assign a specific supervisor in the Sheriff’s Department to handle all citizen complaints. Before 1998, a sheriff’s sergeant was assigned to investigate citizen complaints; after Hedges was elected, he divvied up the work among a handful of sergeants and lieutenants.
Tasking one person with internal investigations would give the public someone to hold accountable and create consistency for department employees, Parkinson said.
If elected, Parkinson, 45, would examine the department’s structure to determine what changes are needed. He wouldn’t consider getting rid of the undersheriff job – which he called the sheriff’s “general manager” – until further study is done to determine whether re-organization is needed.
Parkinson is also interested in revamping the department’s property-evidence room, and expanding its home detention program for certain inmates to relieve staffing at the county jail.
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As a San Luis Obispo police captain, Parkinson has moved up the ranks since joining the department in 1988. He takes two weeks off every summer to oversee a staff of 150 as chief of security for the California Mid-State Fair.
“It’s very similar to government because I have a fair manager I work for and a fair board, like a city council or board of supervisors,” he said.
Q&A: Four questions for Ian Parkinson
Q. There have been some high-profile examples in recent years of problems within the Sheriff’s Department that have caused image problems and led the public to question the leadership of the department. How would you restore public confidence in the department? How would you change the culture within the department?
A. I believe it must start from within. As the department leader, I must set the example. This will be done through regular meetings and communications. The second component is restoring the internal affairs unit. A department of nearly 400 employees must be held accountable through the fair and consistent investigation of its internal matters, including citizen complaints. The department must be more accessible to the public. I must have a collaborative relationship with members of county government, municipal police and fire departments and the media. Keeping people as informed and involved as possible will give the public a sense of openness and involvement.
Q. What do you view as the top crime issue facing the unincorporated areas of the county and how would you address it?
A. Theft is and will probably remain one of the highest reported crimes in our county. Increased visibility and better reporting of thefts are two key components to a solution. I believe the biggest issue is violent crime. Gang membership is on the rise, (but) the majority of violent crimes committed locally by gang members is “gang-on-gang.” The people in our county continue to be at significant risk of attack by sexual predators. The case of Rex Krebs is one example. These offenders have a very high recidivism rate and often attack indiscriminately. Diminishing the risk of attack will require increased awareness and education.
Q. If asked to cut 10 percent of your budget, how would you do that while still maintaining current levels of service?
A. The budget process requires that the sheriff revisit some very basic questions. For example, to combat violent crime, is the department structured in the most efficient way to provide maximum deployment in the field? Is it coordinating well with other agencies to eliminate redundancy? The budget process must include the free exchange of ideas with the public, but mostly with employees of the department. I am a big advocate of advanced law enforcement technologies. Funding for such technologies can often be found through grants. I would also seek to augment the services of the sheriff’s office with volunteers and reserves.
Q. If elected, how would you establish a relationship with other elected leaders, especially the Board of Supervisors? What specifically would you do to improve relations with the board?
A. I think it is vital that the sheriff have a solid working relationship with the Board of Supervisors. Leadership is about establishing and developing relationships through honesty and trust. I have met with each supervisor to discuss issues and philosophies. This relationship-building with the supervisors has led, so far, to the endorsement of my candidacy by Frank Mecham and Adam Hill. I am the only sheriff’s candidate who has gained endorsements from any of the members of the county Board of Supervisors and I am proud to say it is because of the trust and respect that we have for one another.