“I am Sheriff Bill Brown. I am proud to be your sheriff. And I am running for reelection on June 7, 2022.” So began the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s official campaign for a fifth term. His challenger, Lieutenant Juan Camarena, announced a run for the office last August.
At Thursday’s event, Brown was introduced by District Attorney Joyce Dudley, who said the sheriff had earned her respect through the many hard times they’d experienced in the county in the past 20 years. Brown acknowledged the work of his staff and deputies and the turmoil they’d been through after the murder of George Floyd and now the invasion of Ukraine.
The backdrop for Brown’s remarks was the North County Branch Jail in Santa Maria, which he noted was the product of a promise he’d made during a previous election. Brown, who has a penchant for quoting from the classics, translated the Latin chiseled over the entrance: “Every person is the architect of their own destiny.” Touching on the opportunities the jail system could offer inmates — life and vocational skills, anger management and addiction control — Brown stated they “can come out understanding that they really can control their destiny.”
The main jail in Santa Barbara has long been overcrowded, and a new jail has been sought by every sheriff since the 1980s. The initial plans for the North County jail had included education and anti-recidivism programs, that were pared away as costs ballooned. Construction began in 2016, missed a 2019 completion deadline, and opened this January having cost $120 million to complete.
Brown’s most emphatic statements were made in announcing a new opioid prevention program, saying 133 people died of heroin and/or fentanyl overdoses in the county last year, and more than 100,000 in the nation. He said he intends next week to bring law enforcement, medical professionals, and faith leaders together for an initiative he called “Project Opioid.”
Brown started his career as a paramedic in Los Angeles County in 1974, becoming a police officer in Pacifica in 1977. He ascended the ranks from sergeant to acting captain in Inglewood, then became police chief in Moscow, Idaho, in 1992. He was then Lompoc’s police chief in 1995 before being elected county sheriff in 2006.