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Withrow wants to end catch & release of criminals
Pat Withrow is running for San Joaquin County Sheriff. - photo by Photo Contributed

There’s a chance that Pat Withrow’s 27th year with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department will be unlike any he’s had thus far. 

That’s because depending on how things play out at the ballot box next month, Withrow – who currently serves as a sergeant in the department – could soon be the name behind the badge. 

The Sheriff. 

With a long list that includes stints as a canine officer in Lathrop, a representative on the DEA Drug Task Force and a member of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, Withrow will square off with current San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore in a June primary that could end up putting him at the top of the heap.

And he has some very specific examples of what he plans on accomplishing if the voters see fit to place him in office.

Since Moore was last elected four years ago, the Sheriff’s Department – in conjunction with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the San Joaquin County Probation Department – has been tasked with handling the monumental task of incorporating a piece of legislation, AB 109, that completely overhauled the way that sentences are handed out and administered in the state. 

That means that non-violent drug offenders with short prison stints serve their time at county jails, and petty thieves that would end up getting sentenced to a year or less end up on supervised release and often times let go the same day that they’re arrested. 

That, Withrow said, would change if he were at the helm. 

“It has become the logjam of our entire criminal justice system,” he said. “No matter how many bad guys we pick up, they immediately release them back out onto the street and that’s something that needs to stop.

“We need to come up with a way for quick, inexpensive beds so that we’re able to hold people – modular housing that we’re able to add when it’s necessary. That’s what it’s going to take.”

One of his campaign issues inadvertently ended up becoming a major political flashpoint last month when the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a legal challenge from a San Diego County resident that called into question the legality of the state’s “good cause” statute for issuing concealed weapons permits to people – putting the decision into the hands of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs who have the ultimate authority in deciding whether somebody is within the legal boundary. 

While the decision was a good start, Withrow said, he was never going to wait for them to give their formal blessing – instead siding with what he believes is a Second Amendment right for residents that aren’t legally prevented from doing so to carry guns. 

“Our crime rate here is very high and I believe that our citizens have a right to defend themselves and their obligations,” he said. “For years as a society we functioned by protecting each other and one another’s property, and I think that we need to make sure to let the bad guys know again that it’s not okay to hurt our family members or our neighbors.

“I’m happy that they did that, but I believe that it’s a Second Amendment right that everybody already enjoys.”

Other issues that Withrow wants to address include:

• Bolstering the ag crimes task force. What was once, he said, a burgeoning unit has shrunk down to a total of 1.5 deputies – and even those assignments are split to work handling other cases. Given San Joaquin County’s large agricultural base, Withrow said that it’s unfair to create a scenario where farmers have to worry about coming out to find tractor parts stolen or copper wire stripped from a pump – especially when such a successful unit existed not that long ago, and the manpower to renew it is already in place. 

• Preserving existing relationships with county communities. Withrow said that he spent 10 years in Lathrop starting in 1993 – back when the gang problem in the area was exploding – and he got to see how the city and the department forged a bond that eventually blossomed into the department that it is today. The truss of that relationship, he said, is the understanding that it’s the Lathrop City Council and city administrators that make the necessary decisions that affect the community, and that both entities have a vested interest in preserving the safety and the wellbeing of the residents as a whole. 

When Withrow isn’t working he enjoys camping with his family – he and his wife Kathy, a cardiac nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Stockton, have three children – and taking long rides on his motorcycle.