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New San Luis Obispo PD chief talks goals for department, community

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Posted at 7:30 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-06 23:20:21-04

After 24 years of serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area, San Luis Obispo Police Department's new chief, Rick Scott, is happy to call the Central Coast his new home.

"All the ingredients are here in this community to really move law enforcement forward," Chief Scott said.

His tenure began with an `tragedy, starting three days earlier than planned, after Detective Luca Benedetti was shot and killed while serving a warrant on May 10.

"That is the worst nightmare that any police chief, any police department or a community could go through. It's been incredibly challenging but uplifting to see all the amazing support from our community."

Scott promises to focus on community policing rather than traditional policing. Also on top of his priorities are addressing homelessness and substance abuse.

"We're gonna work with our business community as well as with Cal Poly. We already have some great infrastructure in place to facilitate these conversations."

Chief Scott says we've seen communities across the country clamor for police reform.

San Luis Obispo saw several Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 that ended with six people arrested and charged, which brought national attention to the city.

In February of this year, SLOPD released a 100-page report identifying lessons learned and areas of improvement after it used tear gas to disperse protesters on June 1.

"I think there are lessons learned in it that we'll certainly apply if ever they happen again. First and foremost is our responsibility to make sure that our community can protest and express their rights to free speech safely," Scott said.

San Luis Obispo's city council unanimously passed a $202 million two-year plan that includes a yearly increase in the police department's budget. Covered under the budget is the expansion of the Community Action Team, currently composed of one officer and one social worker from Transitions Mental Health Organization.

Also included in the city's new spending is the Mobile Crisis Unit, a pilot program staffed with a paramedic and social worker that will provide "non-emergency response and care to unhoused community members".

At the latest count, 482 people are homeless in San Luis Obispo. At least 25% of total calls for police service involves a homeless individual.

"Homelessness is a very complex sociological problem that I think everyone is struggling with. Our main goal is to direct people to services to put them on a path where they want to go in life."

Scott also asks for the public's help to reach his other goal of combating substance abuse in the city.

"If you're suffering from substance abuse, we have incredible resources that are not punitive in nature that we can direct citizens to, to help direct family members or themselves with substance abuse issues."

To make these changes happen, he says he needs your help and encourages anyone to reach out to the department with any concerns or feedback.

"I'm available here at the police department. I'm out in the community. Often on Thursday night, I'll be down at the Farmers' Market. Please come out and say 'hi.' I'd love to get to know you and the community and how wonderful it is."

During his free time, Chief Scott likes to go on a hike with his dog. He is waiting for his wife and two daughters, 9 and 13, to join him in San Luis Obispo from Texas.