It’s safe to say that there’s officially a new sheriff in town.
While there are still absentee and provisional ballots that need to be counted in San Joaquin County, Pat Withrow’s nearly 9,000 vote lead over three-time Sheriff Steve Moore – based on the returns in the first 24 hours of the election – is safe enough for the former San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Deputy to begin making plans on how he’ll shape his administration and begin the work of restoring integrity to an office that was damaged by scandal in the months leading up to the election.
And one of the things that he’ll start with is body cameras.
In his pursuit to make transparency a priority again for the Sheriff’s Office, Withrow said that he’s in favor of making sure that the day-to-day interactions between deputies and the public are recorded for the protection of not just those that come into contact with the police, but the deputies as well.
“The transparency of our department will be of the utmost importance to this administration,” Withrow said. “We will go about this by being clear and truthful with the media and the public, and by placing dash cams in all of our patrol cars and body cams on all of our deputies.”
Withrow, who retired from the department after more than two decades on the job not long after he lost to Moore in the 2014 election, holds a commanding lead in the race – 30,762 votes to 21,976 – but will have to wait until January before officially taking over the department. While there were only two candidates vying for the county’s top law enforcement post, meaning that one of them was likely to garner the 50 percent necessary to avoid a November runoff election, Moore will be able to finish his third term which runs through to the beginning of next year.
While many things were said on the campaign trail in what was one of the most closely-watched races in the region – aided by negative national press over Moore’s handing of the coroner’s office, and allegations of physical and sexual abuse against shackled inmates in the jail – Withrow said that he plans on delivering on all of them, and maintains their importance on regaining the trust of the public and those who may have been hurt by the actions of the department in the past.
One of those promises, Withrow said, will be to revisit the Linden well site where human remains believed to be dumped by Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog – known as the “Speed Freak Killers” – were sought in order to provide long-awaited closure for the families of suspected victims. He also plans on meeting with representatives from the City of Lathrop so that negotiations can begin in order to keep the long-standing relationship between the city and the Sherriff’s office alive as they take steps to look elsewhere for policing services.
“The Linden well site is so important because those victims’ families have been waiting many years for closure. We in law enforcement have a duty to them that has not yet been fulfilled,” Withrow said. “As for Lathrop, I plan on meeting with members of the Lathrop city staff at which point I will ask them for time to renegotiate our contract to a fair and mutually beneficial agreement – policing should be for protection, not for profit.”
And some of Moore’s fiercest detractors will have something to look forward to in a Withrow administration.
While Moore denied any wrongdoing in the handling and storing of evidence and claimed that the rates that he was charging the City of Lathrop for policing services were set by San Joaquin County and out of his hands, Withrow said that he wants to begin his tenure by auditing both the evidence room – where critics claim thousands of pieces of evidence are missing – as well as the annual budget to see how things have been handled over the course of the last 12 years.
“I fully intend to initiate an audit of the evidence room and go through the Sherriff’s budget with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that our tax payers’ dollars are being spent wisely and appropriately,” Withrow said. “The audit of the evidence room is important because missing pieces of evidence could result in current and past criminal cases being compromised.”
At the end of the day, Withrow maintained that it was the team of dedicated volunteers that helped elevate him to victory Tuesday night by tackling the difficult task of reaching out to voters in the sprawling county – with each city within the county having its own unique culture and challenges that he had to tap into in order to beat an established elected official like Moore.
“I was blessed to have so many hard-working men and women who volunteered for our campaign who really made the difference in swinging the direction in our favor,” Withrow said. “The Tracy GO team was instrumental in the Get Out to Vote effort, and my walking teams made all the difference in reaching voters in Manteca, Lathrop and Tracy.
“I can’t thank them enough for their hard work.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.