Rick Eldredge became the sheriff in January and has been busy learning the ropes of the new position.
The new sheriff moved into his position after a successful career with the Utah Highway Patrol, just as did his predecessors, Mike Lacy and Claude Lacy.
A Lacy has been the San Juan County Sheriff for nearly 30 years, and the change was not easy. “I respect what the Lacy family has done in the past,” explained Eldredge, “and I hope to build on the good things they have done.”
One of the first steps Eldredge took was to select leadership within the department. Alan Freestone became the Chief Deputy and Troy Butler replaced Freestone as the jail commander.
“I rely on these two men to help us lead the department,” said Eldredge. “They are very capable men.”
In fact, Eldredge stated that working with the employees in the Sheriff’s department has been one of the highlights of his first five months. “We have high quality employees in the department,” said Eldredge. “They are the best people.”
Jason Torgerson and JJ Bradford are the lead detectives for the department.
Eldredge is focusing his initial efforts on increasing interaction and cooperation among the various law enforcement agencies that work in the county. He asked Torgerson and Bradford to take the lead in these efforts.
The first interagency meeting had a large turnout, including officials from a variety of local police departments, including Monticello, Blanding, Dove Creek and Moab. Federal agencies also participated, including the FBI, BLM, National Park Service, and US Forest Service.
Eldredge also reports that his office is working closely with BIA agents at White Mesa, including sharing office space at the county annex office in Blanding.
A significant effort is underway to seek increased cooperation with the Navajo Nation. “If we can cross-deputize sheriff department employees on the Navajo Nation, it will significantly increase our ability to help county residents,” said Eldredge.
Of particular concern is Gouldings Lodge in Monument Valley. Eldredge says that sheriff deputies cannot serve Gouldings adequately because it is surrounded by reservation land.
“Gouldings is an island of private property,” said Eldredge. “They pay taxes to support law enforcement in the county, but we can’t serve them because we are not deputized in the Navajo Nation.”
Eldredge says he plans a trip to Window Rock this summer to advance the attempts to increase interaction on the Navajo Reservation. In addition, he has visited local chapter meetings in San Juan County to build support for the efforts.
Changes have been made to the uniforms of deputies, and a new fitness program has been implemented. “We want the guys to look good and feel good,” explained the Sheriff.
Another project is to implement a new information system that will be used by the county and the city police departments. “This will get all the local agencies on the same page and help us work together,” explained Eldredge.
Eldredge said one of his major goals is to increase customer service. “We must have a customer service orientation in the department,” he explained. “People deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity.”
Technology and training are keys to the effort. “We hope to use advances in technology to help this department lead the way,” said Eldredge. “And increased training will help our employees better serve the residents of San Juan County.”