MERCED — As he prepared to leave the Merced County Sheriffs Department for a job with the California Governors Office, Sheriff Mark Pazin reflected Friday on his time as a deputy and as the departments top cop.
Looking back, I really cant say I have any regrets, he said.
Pazin, 57, confirmed his appointment this week to serve as chief of the California Governors Office of Emergency Services Law Enforcement Branch. Gov. Jerry Browns office announced the appointment Thursday in a statement.
The veteran sheriff will formally step down from the department Dec. 31 and start his new duties Jan. 2.
Area law enforcement officials congratulated Pazin.
I know this has been a goal of his for a long time, and Im very happy to see him accomplish it, Merced police Chief Norm Andrade said. I know hes worked very hard for it. Its always been a pleasure working with him, and I know hell do well in his new position.
District Attorney Larry D. Morse II said he was happy to have called Pazin a friend and colleague for more than two decades.
Ive always said Mark is absolutely the best local retail politician; he has indefatigable energy and has worked 365 days a year and never tires of the duties of the job, Morse said. I wish him all the best in Sacramento, and I think hell enjoy the new challenges.
Pazin said he is proud of his achievements in office, including the state-of-the-art equipment that has come to the department during his tenure and the new facilities created in response to the state Prison Realignment Act.
You make decisions, you have your critics and Ive had mine, Pazin said. But I embrace those critics because I know Im making decisions. If I didnt have any critics, then I wouldnt be doing the job.
Specifically, the sheriff said he disagreed that he should have put more resources into combating street gangs in Merced County, saying he believed he did what he thought was possible with available resources.
We have plenty of participation in the gang and (narcotics) task forces, he said. They may not have (the word) gang in their title, but the STAR Team does a great job; theyre very aggressive combating the people that are hurting the quality of life in the area.
The Sheriffs Tactical and Reconnaissance Team focuses on narcotics, weapons, and dangerous fugitive apprehension, among other duties.
Do we need more boots on the ground? Of course, we do, he said. But Merced County is 2,200 square miles so if we put more resources there (Planada) its at the expense of Le Grand, Delhi or some other area on the west side.
There have been 28 homicides in 2013, 18 of which have been reported under the sheriffs jurisdiction, making it one of the bloodiest years in recent memory.
Pazin said the high number of unsolved homicides is more of a reflection on the communitys unwillingness to help law enforcement than anything his office has or has not done this year.
We get people asking, What are you going to do? What are you going to do? But if people are not going to get involved, then our chances of solving the case are greatly diminished, he said.
A lack of help is one of a great many things that has changed since Pazin first joined the Sheriffs Department full time in 1981.
The job used to be that you had a gun, a badge, a radio and just go get them, he commented. Now we have state-of-the-art technologies and communications, computers in vehicles and vehicles that we just never could have imagined when I first started.
He said hes also witnessed some very troubling changes over the years.
Criminals are more aggressive now and much more sophisticated, he said. They know their rights, and they know exactly how far they can push law enforcement.
He reflected on the fact that hes seen many of the same names come through his jail over the years as successive generations of criminals inherit the family business.
I chased their grandparents when I first started out, then that generation procreated and I chased them as a detective-sergeant and now theres a new generation, he said. Some people have a farm that the next generation takes over and some have criminal activity.
Pazin said he is very proud of the equipment the helicopters and state-of-the-art SWAT weapons, vehicles and gear that hes helped bring to the department through military surplus programs and asset forfeitures.
When I first took office in 2002, self-sufficiency was the mantra, he said. We didnt want to have to be dependent on any other agency for equipment. That was our pursuit.
Pazin said he is particularly proud of the Trident Center, a three-pronged approach to helping reduce recidivism after the prison realignment, which put many probation and alternative sentencing programs under one roof.
He said he believes that approach is the future of law enforcement and hopes other jurisdictions will use Merced Countys program as a template.
I really dont have any regrets, he said. Its been a good career any way you cut it.
Staff writer Rob Parsons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 385-2482.