San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow used his monthly video address on Thursday to address the civil unrest that has been brewing around the country and surfacing right here at home.
While he spoke out vocally about those that wish to cause mayhem and are using the legitimate protests as cover for illegal activities, Withrow reiterated that he hoped those just wishing to be heard recognized that his department supports their efforts.
That support, however, is not extended to those responsible for violent acts or for looting businesses – which became an issue last week in Stockton when thieves smashed the windows to the Sherwood and Weberstown malls and rushed a Walmart in the northern part of town.
“We’ve had a lot of protesting and a little bit of rioting that was involved in that, and I just want to start out by thanking everyone for their support – the support for law enforcement, not just for our department but for all law enforcement, has been overwhelming,” Withrow said. “Hopefully our support for the protestors has shone through also. We want people to be able to get their message out and we want to work with people to make sure that we get the change that we need.
“But we want to be very aggressive towards those that want to create violence and mayhem and damage property and really try to dissuade from the message or change the message.”
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office has been a major force throughout the county in quelling potential situations as they arose at protests and elsewhere since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide unrest last week. By making a team of rapid response deputies available to respond to situations throughout the county, the agency has served as a bolstering force for local law enforcement agencies that have become overwhelmed as crowds have turned angry or potentially violent.
On Tuesday more than a dozen patrol cars from the sheriff’s office descended on Sequoia Park in Manteca are a report came in that the tail end of the Black Lives Matter protest has started to turn sour after a bottle had been thrown at officers after somebody tried to open the door of a patrol car. The immediate response coupled with the calming approach of the event’s organizers kept the situation calm and spoke to the soft-handed approach that the agency is taking when responding to the delicate maters.
“We’re so happy to engage with the public on this and bring about good, positive change and I think that we have made a lot of positive change here in San Joaquin County before this incident because we have learned a lot from past incidents,” Withrow said. “Please continue to be patient and we’ll continue to be out there fighting to make sure you, your business, your property, and your family are staying safe.”
While some businesses in the county have resorted to boarding up their windows and closing up shop out of fear that they’ll be targeted by looters, Withrow was adamant that his deputies will do everything in their power to prevent that from happening – going so far as to urge them to keep their doors open so that they are no longer financially impacted by things that are outside of their control.
The commitment to that, he said, will be visible in the number of deputies that will remain deployed to prevent anything from happening.
“You may notice that we’re around a lot, like in Lincoln Center and all throughout the county in different areas making sure that our county stays safe,” Withrow said. “If you have any concerns, don’t worry – we are going to be there for you. Stay open and continue to do your business – a lot of you have had to close because of coronavirus – and we will be there to protect you.
“The safest place your business can be is when it’s open and there are a lot of customers around because we here in San Joaquin County stand up and protect each other.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.