Cortez speaks out against deputies transgressions

July 20, 2010

Joe Cortez


The video blog released by KCCN.TV depicting the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department activities is extremely disturbing. To be fair, it should be noted that the posted video contains excerpts of a real event interspersed with video recreating the event. As viewers, we do not have all the information surrounding the April, 2008 incident that is needed to make a definitive judgment.

I strongly believe that local law enforcement agencies are the gatekeepers for upholding the rights of all individuals. Our citizens must have confidence that our deputies are working in their best interest by applying our laws fairly, justly, and compassionately. It is the responsibility of the Sheriff to set  the highest standards of accountability to ensure our deputies function within the law, and further, that  we break the ‘Code of Silence’ that stands in the way of deputies bringing to light any egregious actions of their peers.

It is troubling that no patrol supervisor appeared to be on scene to offer guidance and assistance on this call. Patrol sergeants are the ‘keepers of the standards’ and it is essential that they be present and available on high profile incidents to ensure it is handled prudently and appropriately. In these situations, it is imperative that sufficient patrol supervision is provided on a daily basis to avoid situations just as this.

As your Sheriff, I will have zero tolerance for the violation of our constitutional rights, just as I have for 36 years in law enforcement, including 15 years as a chief of police.  When we find that constitutional rights have been intentionally violated, I will not hesitate in bringing these matters to the attention of the FBI’s Office of Civil Rights, in addition to any disciplinary action or criminal charges that we take on the local level.

We cannot afford to have the trust and faith of our citizens undermined by the over zealousness of a few who may feel they are above the law.

Joe Cortez is the former Chief of Police for the City of Pismo Beach, and a 30-year law enforcement veteran who has served 15 years as a chief of police. He is currently a candidate for Sheriff of San Luis Obispo County.

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Joe Cortez has my family’s vote.

He also has the vote for many of my friends.

Joe, please make us proud.

It’s not going to be easy, but we need someone honest and true to make things right.

Clean house!

If their is a doubt… bring in new blood.

Don’t worry, the county will have your back.

Just don’t forget, we put you there…

Mr. Cortez,

Would you let me know if Deputy Coroner Stuart MacDonald and his wife Cameron MacDonald and their Sgt get a hold of you? I am more than sure they are going to approach you after I have written these comments to you.

Keep up the good work. :)

ACTUALLY THIS IS A WIDE SPREAD PROBLEM WITHIN YOUR SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT. It is soo politically corrupt, tied into your own court systems and Board of Supervisors that you are not going to get it to clean up right away. I think they’d rather kill you than let you clean up your whole political system in San Luis Obispo!

Hello Mr. Cortez,

You words are music to my ears. Why don’t you bring to “The attention of the FBI’s Office of Civil Rights, in addition to any disciplinary action or criminal charges that we take on the local level,” now? Why wait to be voted into office?

I don’t live in your county, but you have my backing and endorsement.

Cortez scares me!! Hey Joe you need to do your research on this before you come out and try to win everyone over as some big “reformer.” Joe says that there was no field supervisor on scene..there was.. I guess he does not know enough about the department on the video itself there is radio traffic about a “Charles” unit also going to the incient. A charles unit is a Commander which is above a SGT!! Cortez has not done his reasearh on the Sheriff’s Dept and has no idea about what he is getting into! Hey Joe..have you gone on any ride alongs or been to any stations to talk to the people that work for the department? I know he did a sit in at dispatch after he bad mouthed them and got called on it..Joe has seen several Deputies out and about and will not even give them the time of day. The deputies already have a sheriff (and some command staff members) that are not approachable.

With all that said..I will say that I do not agree with the way the gun safe was searched. To get into the gun safe they needed a warrant in my opinion but as far as searching the house I agree that doing a quick search around the house to make sure there are no dead bodies is justified. If there was something in plain view inside the house then the deputies are good to go on that far as Hart shooting safely I dont think that the video is correct and protrays this as a very rural area. 2 acres is not a large enough parcel to safely shoot a 22 cal the bullet can travel up to a mile. does anyone that lives in the jardine area disagree? again in my opinion.. and as far as the gun part..they cant give it back to him because he probably had an illegal firearm that he can not posses.

A few days ago, after Dave Congalton covered the story on his July 20th broadcast, the SLO Sheriff’s Dept. did return the guns to Matt Hart so they were not illegal firearms. I can’t think of any good reason for retaining them for over two years, except to harass Matt Hart.

It’s pretty easy to miss that “Charles 7” reference right at the beginning of the video. Seems like a pretty minor point. Sounds like you have a political ax to grind against Joe Cortez. Are you a Sheriff’s Department employee?

my point (even though you say it is minor) is that Cortez will speak out about this even though he doesnt have all the details…he has not done his research and has no understanding of the Dept. I do not have a political ax to grind against Cortez. I have met the man once and he seemed like a very nice guy. I feel he will be out of his league though and will not run the department correctly. He stands on his experience and all you people eat that up. BUT lets really look at it…Brush CO Chief…I believe there website says they have a dozen sworn positions…Aspen CO Chief…city population about 6000 people and about 25 cops total including the chief…..Pismo Beac PD chief…city population about 9000 (i will say much more in hte summer but) total sworn is around 25-30 cops MAX the department had like 6 police cars total..Now the sheriff’;s population coverage approx 75k-100k people total sworn officer about 140 (not even including the jail staff) and about 350 employees total…see the difference? In addition Cortez is all about image…look at Pismo’s cars with he stupid wave and pier on it..and their uniform’s with the clam shell about concentrating on running a department…not what you look like!

as far as me being a memeber of the department..that should not matter..i could be..I could be a member of another department and I could be just a friend of some police officers..does that matter? i will say that I am a taxpaying citizen and life long SLO county resident that has a concern about the Sheriff’s Department since I live in the unincorporated area …should I be banned from responding? oh..and yes I am using my personal computer..


By your measure, Mr. Cortez is unacceptable because of the size of the departments he has managed in the past are smaller than SLOSD.

How big are the departments that Mr. Parkinson has managed? What….he has been Chief of 0 (ZERO) departments?

Hmmmm…I guess that Truth Hurts will not be voting this fall as no candidates meet his stringent requirements. Me, I will be voting for the person who has experience as a CLEO. Success can be scaled, inexperience can’t.

So Truth Hurts you have a lot to say about Cortez and don’t mention anything about Parkinson. Maybe the battery on your personal computer went dead before you could finish. So I’ll help you out. Parkinson has never been a chief. He was promoted up through the ranks of SLOPD without the required education. The skeletons in his closet are getting restless, just wanting to come out (sounds as if you may know of few of them). Any need to go on? Cortez may have been a chief in small towns, but with both Aspen and Pismo Beach, they are a vacation heaven for thousands of people each year. Just the 4th of July alone is a bigger event than Parkinson has ever managed. So please don’t discount small agencies. Some of the better police work comes out of the smaller agencies.

I appreciate the fact Cortez responded in writing on the video. I am not at all surprised Parkinson has not. First, I don’t believe Parkinson has the ability to put a response together in writing that would be clear, concise and most of all, an honest opinion, in fear he may not get the endorsement of the new Deputy Association. So with that thought, he would have to rely on his PR firm to put something out. But then Parkinson is caught in a 20/20 situation. The day may come he’ll have to debate this issue with Cortez. Oh my, won’t that be interesting — a real Debate! So my feeling is that he’s been told to keep quiet on the subject and it too will go away. Lets hope not. It’s time to get Cortez and Parkinson together and let the debates begin.

Cortez just got my vote.

I too appreciate Chief Cortez’s comments and I’m greatly troubled by the cavalier attitude that seems to be consistent with all of the LE employees seen in the videos. One would think that at least ONE of them would express some concern for the law and citizen Hart’s rights beyond how to justify the miss-deeds. As Chief Cortez warns, we do not have all of the information, but we have enough to suggest that this needs to be thoroughly investigated. A strong Sheriff would take quick and meaningful action on this – given the date of the occurrence this does not seem to be the case. “Justice delayed is justice denied” and this cuts both ways (justice for Hart and consequences for the officers). I would hope that the Grand Jury will take this on as a worthy subject to investigate but I’m not clear if it is within their purview and given their past history, it may be too meaty for this body.

I am not near as worried as others about Ian Parkinson’s lack of response since this became public, this is not exactly an impartial forum for a discussion and Parkinson is very apt to be the next sheriff and will have to take action with these very deputies as well as changing the culture of the entire department if these people really are indicative of other staff. Parkinson will need the ability to take action unrelated to on-line rhetoric and political expediency. He has made it clear that he knows he has to change the culture in the department.

In any case, I am optimistic that either Cortez or Parkinson will make much needed positive changes in the department. I do know some deputies and I know that these cowboys do not represent the entire department so the new sheriff will have at least something to work with.

Failing to take a position…

A quality expected of a coward but not of a sheriff…

Parkinson’s values/beliefs and his position on this matter should not change if he become the next sheriff (more and more doubtful each day) of SLOC. He’s simply afraid of upsetting the unions.