"It's a stronger department, it's better equipped, better staffed and better trained than it's ever been."
Sheriff Harold Carter is finishing his first term and wants to serve a second term.
He said the Sheriffs' Office has seen much positive change during his tenure and he wants to continue to be a part of the process of making the department the most professional law enforcement agency in the state.
"The sheriff position is a job where you can really make a difference in public safety," Carter said.
"This is what I have trained for all my life," he said. "I think I have something to offer. If I didn't think I had something to offer I wouldn't (run for another term)."
Carter said one of the key issues the department is going to face relates to the budget. He said with the nation in an economic downturn and with the state budget still in question, whoever is sheriff is going to have to understand the budget process.
He said his department is going to have to find a way to offset possible losses in the budget and, as with the entire county government, find ways to increase revenues.
One way he is attempting to do that is by raising the state and federal incarceration fees the county receives. He said the department is in the process of doing that.
Carter said he supports the building of a privatized federal prison in the county that would house U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service detainees.
He said such a prison could create 350 jobs and bring millions of dollars into the local economy, a portion of which would go toward law enforcement.
Carter said another issue the department is going to face is employee recruitment. He said in the next few years the department could see a number of retirements and there will be a need to fill those positions.
To that end, Carter said, he has implemented a program of hiring men and women in the Imperial Valley and sending them to the sheriffs' academy in Riverside to receive training.
He said since he started as sheriff 22 law enforcement positions have been added and there are now seven people in the academy going through training.
Carter said the department is better trained then it has ever been as a result of his focus on training.
"I believe if you ask a person to do a job, you have to help prepare them to do the job," he said. "Once they are prepared, they will do the job you want them to do."
He said of recruitment, "That is an issue we have to deal with. Not only will it be a challenge, it will be an opportunity to bring a lot of young talent into the department to structure it for the future."
Carter said of department staffing, "We are as close as we have ever been in the history of the department to being fully staffed."
Carter said his focus also has been to improve facilities. He said the goal is to build a regional training facility, a new pistol range, upgrade the emergency communication system for law enforcement agencies countywide and create a centralized database system that all local law enforcement could tap into to aid in bringing criminals to justice.
Carter said he wants to continue his efforts as chief of property security for the county, a position in line with the idea of homeland security in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In that position, Carter said, he is looking at ways to protect people and local government and court facilities from the threat of terrorist attacks.
Carter said he is moving forward with upgrades to the jail facilities that will make them safer for inmates and the correctional officers and other staffers.
Carter further said during his tenure the department has created a Sheriff's Activities League for youths and has deputies working as school resource officers.
"We are working more in high schools than ever before," he said.
Carter said the department has added a canine unit to aid in patrols and he plans to add more canine units. He said dogs can help deputies in patrolling areas where criminals may be hiding and in locating narcotics.
During his tenure, Carter said, he has worked to improve the image of the department and he said that has occurred.
"I believe in the last three years we have successfully changed the department's public image," he said, adding the public is more confident in the service provided by the department.
Carter has received endorsements from the Imperial County Sheriffs Association — the deputies' union — and management staff of the department.
He said those endorsements are important because it shows those he works with trust his leadership.
Carter said, "I have a proven record both in El Centro and with the Sheriff's Office."