Scott promoted to new rank, new office

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Scott promoted to new rank, new officeWell-known Kern County Sheriff Sgt. Michael Scott was promoted to lieutenant on Dec. 21, 2012. This new position also involved a transfer to the Mojave substation, where Scott oversees the Mojave, Tehachapi and Rosamond area offices.

Scott continues to reside in Ridgecrest with his wife and family, as he has done for 30 years. He was re-elected in November to the Board of Education of the Sierra Sands Unified School District.

The Ridgecrest Sheriff’s Office is now being supervised by Sgt. Paul Leonard.

Scott describes his new duties as representing a different aspect of the job. “I’m enjoying it. It’s more of a management position. My primary duty is to manage the different substations.

“I make sure people are staying within their budgets, maintain staffing levels and deal with the sergeants and front-line supervisors in the offices. I’m not out on the streets as much as I used to be.

“My plan right now is to make it through the first year and deal with the current fiscal crisis. I hope the state finances improve so the department can make it back up to full staff and get the budget increased.”

Asked about crime patterns in different areas, he replied, “Overall, they’re pretty similar. Some areas might have more of one type of crime, depending on their geographical location. In more populated areas, there are more people and more calls for service, but you have the same percentage of types of crimes.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of different areas have cultural differences, and issues unique to that community. Learning those issues is a challenge.”

In the wake of national news involving citizens with untreated mental health issues, does he see people with mental-health issues being arrested locally?

“Mental health is a major concern not only in Kern County but throughout the state and the nation. Unfortunately, everyone’s budget has been cut, including access to services for mental health. Right now it’s difficult to expand the programs available to help these people. I’m hopeful about AB-109.”

This is an Assembly bill signed in 2011, “Public Safety Realign-ment,” designed to reduce the overcrowding in California’s prisons by changing how low-level inmates (nonviolent and not offenders with serious or sex-related offenses), are handled to keep them from cycling through the prison system over and over.

For more information, check out AB-109 on the Internet. The Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63) was approved by California voters in 2004. While this proposition increased funding for mental health services, it only laid the groundwork.

“Jail’s not the answer,” said Scott. “If we can correct the underlying problem and prevent people from re-offending, that will be a better investment of funding. That will help everyone in the long run.”

Scott is one of two lieutenants covering the east and northeast areas of Kern County. The other is Lt. Tim Melanson, who lives in Bakersfield and oversees the Kern Valley and Ridgecrest areas.

“When only one of us is available, the other fills in. If there’s an emergency in the Ridgecrest area, I’d be the first to respond, since I live in Ridgecrest. Lt. Melanson would respond first for the areas nearer Bakersfield.”

Scott commented on the commute to work. “It used to be a five-minute drive to the office in Ridgecrest. Now it’s a 50- to 55-minute drive. But I’m happy. I’m still on the east side. I’m just glad I didn’t get sent to Bakersfield.”

Story First Published: 2013-02-06