In an abrupt decision, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin has announced that he will be leaving his position as sheriff after being appointed as Chief of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Law Enforcement Branch.
After more than 30 years with the Merced Sheriff’s Office, Pazin says that the change is a natural transition.
“I know a lot of things have been going fast and furious, but after getting a call from the Governor’s Office and giving it some thought this past week, I decided to go ahead and retire from Merced County Sheriff’s Office after nearly 33 years,” said Pazin during a press conference on Friday. “It was a very agonizing decision. It’s one that I did not take lightly.”
Having poured his heart and soul into the Merced Sheriff’s Office, Pazin says that the decision was difficult.
With his term as County Sheriff set to expire at the end of 2014, Pazin said that he felt that it was incumbent upon him to give the voters a chance to decide who should succeed him as County Sheriff.
“In some counties there’s a pecking order in place, and that’s not my style,” said Pazin. “I’m going to give everyone ample opportunity to have the chance to allow the voters to make their choice.”
With just about one year left in Pazin’s term as County Sheriff, the Merced County Board of Supervisors is expected to soon appoint someone midterm to fulfill the sheriff’s duties.
“I leave with a certain amount of wish that some of the cases that were involved would have come to fruition, so we’d know who did it,” said Pazin, mentioning the one year anniversary of the tow truck drivers who went missing in Merced County. “There are a number of murder investigations that sometimes you just have to let go.”
Although Pazin will be taking a reduction in pay by moving to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Service — about a $40,000 difference — he says his motivation comes from wanting to let a new generation of law enforcement officers take over the roles in leading the Sheriff’s department.
“It’s just going to encompass its new challenges,” said Pazin regarding his new position. “There’s a certain point where you feel that you have done all that you can, and again with 33 plus years, I mean, there’s always going to be a project but when do you say when?...When do you say ‘Okay, it’s time to move on and let a new generation of law enforcement officers go ahead and handle the Merced County Sheriff’s Office?’”
In his new position, Pazin will be under the Director of the California Office of Emergency Services with Governor Brown, where he’ll oversee the regional law enforcement coordinators for several areas of the State – including the area of Merced. Additionally, Pazin will oversee the 1033 Program which brings military surplus items that can be used in local law enforcement – a program that Pazin is well versed in having purchased many items through the program while serving as County Sheriff.
“I was intimately involved with how some of these programs worked, so it was just a natural transition for me,” said Pazin.
Although Pazin says his immediate successor will ultimately be the decision of the Board of Supervisors, he could note a few challenges that the new sheriff may face.
“We need a new correctional facility, we need a new communications center, and I think the first one here is to find the money for a new facility,” said Pazin. “What we do need is a comprehensive broad brushed approach to rehabilitation that brings down recidivism…Now we always have to try to understand that we’re going to have to reevaluate or recalibrate our thought process because obviously when we’re overcapacity in over 33 state correctional institutions, something is amiss. We’re crowded here, so what are we not doing correctly? What do we need to do right? We need to reeducate, reevaluate, and recalibrate. And that’s going to be the challenges of future law enforcement leaders, whether they are sheriff or police chief.”
Pazin also noted funding as an ever present challenge, as the State of California continues to grow and create a higher demand for officers.
“As the State of California grows, so does the demand,” said Pazin. “And so there are those precious dollars that have to be stretched as far as they can, but here’s the bottom line: When someone calls 9-1-1, they want an officer there.”
Having been in office since 2002, Pazin says that his biggest accomplishment while Sheriff has been helping make Merced County self-sufficient.
“Even in 2002, my mantra was self-sufficiency because we don’t want to have to depend on the equipment of another agency,” said Pazin. “We didn’t want to be dependent. Merced County is large enough to be self sustainable, and that was the pursuit under my direction. You have a vision, and you have great persons that implement that vision. I’m more conceptual but I had persons that were able to put that vision together to get where I thought our agency should be and that was self-sufficiency.”
Pazin’s last official day with the Merced County Sheriff’s department is set for Dec. 31, with his new position as Chief of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to begin on Jan. 2, 2014.
“I’m a little melancholy about it,” said Pazin. “But I’m not going across the world; it’s only two hours away. I’ll be around.”