Leon Worden

Vote Sheriff Block for a better choice

By Leon Worden
Sunday, November 1, 1998

am voting for Sherman Block. A decade ago I wouldn't have. Block was personable enough when I first met him in 1982, but by early 1988, shortly after cityhood, a string of incidents involving questionable use of force and inconsiderate behavior from a few deputies at the Santa Clarita station evoked complaints.

And I did a lot of the complaining.

Our fledgling City Council asked Block to change things. A lesser man would have sloughed off the request and maybe made some cosmetic changes to pacify the north 40. Not Sherman Block. He took it to heart.

He gave Santa Clarita a wonderful new station commander who, under Block's authority, plucked the bad apples from the tree and implemented sweeping reforms that permeated the department and survive to this day.

The change in philosophy was evident by mid-summer 1989. It was my great pleasure to work with Capt., now Chief, Bob Spierer's deputies and with the Boys and Girls Club to organize the first Haunted Jailhouse that year. Six thousand children and parents saw that the men and women in the tan shirts were to be respected not because they wore a badge, but because they deserved to be.

Tan shirts became a regular and much welcomed part of our community as Spierer and his successors, notably Michael I. Quinn and now Don Rodriguez, sent their deputies into the schools with anti-drug and anti-gang messages and worked with volunteers to enact community-based policing.

We learned the deputies' names. We grew accustomed to their faces. When the COC gym filled with equal parts law enforcement and civilians in 1996 to honor the late Sgt. Bob Warford, it spoke not only to the popularity of one individual but to an appreciation for a new brand of leadership.

That leadership, that departmental philosophy, must be preserved. I am convinced that a big part of the credit for Santa Clarita remaining such a safe and pleasant place to live goes to the men and women of the LASD and the leadership they have known.

I don't personally know the challenger. I do know he has not earned the respect of his fellow officers. I'm sure they will continue to display their professionalism if he wins, but I for one will not compound the blow of losing their friend by voting for someone they do not want to work for. It would be hurtful to the people in whose hands we place our lives.

Qualified candidates who reflect Block's leadership philosophies would never think of running against their boss. Now they will have a chance to run in the next election, which will take place in two years or sooner — but only if Block wins Tuesday. Otherwise, the department's 8,000 sworn personnel and 4,500 civilian employees will be stuck with less than the best for four years.

Godspeed, Sherman Block.

    Leon Worden is The Signal's special sections editor.

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