A Reputation Built on Experience

As we near the end of the year, I’d like to once again thank all of you for an outstanding year of service. With a little less than a month left in 2012, we’re on track for a slightly lower than average callout year.This past year we’ve had 47 callouts.

As you all know, training and planning takes much of your time to be mission-ready. When we combine training, planning and actual operations, the team has logged over 40,000 hours in service this year. This is an incredible number and a testament to your dedication to the mission. All 200-plus members participated at varying levels to make this a great year for the team.

Of the 47 missions, 16 were mutual-aid requests to counties other than Contra Costa. This number is slightly more than our average. The big difference was the number of Type 1 out-of-county calls the team responded to. Seven calls were true Type 1 calls. Over the past few years, the average Type 1 mission tempo has been two to three. I equate this increase to the team’s reputation and not to the number of opportunities.

More and more this year our team has been specifically requested by outside agencies to assist. This is a direct result of the hard work and professionalism the team lives by. The team’s reputation is a byproduct of that hard work.

We’ve had some pretty significant calls where the team truly made a difference in the outcome. Without going into details on each mission, I want to convey the appreciation the department has for your dedicated service. Every time you participate in a SAR event, you have the potential to make a difference.

A Search and Rescue career is based on education and experience. Active participation has a cumulative effect for every team member, whether a brand new academy student or a veteran with years of experience. It is one thing to take a class, but nothing beats the learning experience of a real-world search. When we call you out on a search, it’s because we need your help to come make a difference for the missing or at-risk person. When you do respond to the callout, you make an immediate impact on someone’s life, and while doing that, you learn and gain valuable experience to be better prepared for future missions.

Focus on Success

This has been quite a month. Between completing the 2012 SAR Academy and bringing 38 new members on the team, we experienced one of the busiest months of operations we have had in a long time. One quarter of our total missions for 2012 were handled in the month of October.

On every callout, the team performed outstanding, professional service and made the difference on many searches. At the last staff meeting, we reviewed every mission and discussed what went well and evaluated what areas we can improve on. We have created an improvement plan matrix to ensure we as a team consistently address any areas of improvement.

This continuous improvement process is one of the key points that sets this team apart. We as a culture do not allow the status quo.  Each member plays a huge role in building this program and ensuring its continued growth and success.

The Office of the Sheriff does appreciate the team's work. Each time the SAR Team deploys, a report is generated and sent to every department member from sergeant up to the sheriff. In this report is a brief synopsis of where the team is going and what it is doing.

The respect and gratitude from the full-time staff continues to grow and evolve. The last incident report included the following narrative from the on-call duty officer:

"Yesterday at about 1200 hours in Santa Cruz County, CCCSO SAR members located the missing subject deceased. All members returned to the op area at 1430 hours.

"As always, thanks go out to every volunteer member that was able to assist. Many of these team members have not only been available for nearly every call in the past month, but have played strong roles performing background tasks within the group, from logistics to training new members. All on their own time … all without complaint."

The fact that everyone is singularly focused on the team's success has been demonstrated at all levels of the team this past month.  No matter how big or how small the contribution, you made a difference to those we serve. Thank you.

Measured Growth

This has been a very good month.

We just completed an extremely successful New Member Academy.  The team graduated 38 new Type 3 Team Members. This number included 13 very enthusiastic Explorer youth members.  To a person, this was a great group. Our recruiters, HR team and oral board evaluators did a great job putting this year's academy together.  The academy staff and the additional 80+ team members who assisted during the academy set a gold standard for the new members.  We’ve added the new graduates to the callout roster. They’re going to pay huge dividends in the near future.

Separately, on October 5th, the Red Cross honored the Search and Rescue Team with a Community Heroes award. This award recognized the incredible work that the team has performed over the past year.  This award was also accompanied by proclamations from the State Assembly, State Senate, a member of Congress and the Board of Supervisors recognizing the team for outstanding achievement. 

We as a team do not do what we do for recognition and accolades.  But it is professionally rewarding to know the work each and every member contributes is recognized by groups like the Red Cross as well as our elected bodies.  As long as the team stays focused on the mission and performs at a level way beyond expectations, people will notice.  That is what is happening with the latest trend.  We’re being recognized for consistently providing the best service in the State. 

Finally, I want to give special recognition to our K9 program. As you know we recently got two trailing dogs on-line.  Additionally the K9 leadership has been working to update their SOPs and training manual to create a firm resource foundation.  The COCOSAR K9s have been working in coordination with our CARDA-affiliated members.  This group as a whole is really improving our K9 capabilities across the board.

This month the state has requested K9 trailing services through mutual aid to assist other counties.  In addition our HRD/Decomp dogs have been requested to assist with several crime scenes in Hercules and San Joaquin county.  This past week our handlers recovered human remains from a train vs. pedestrian in Oakley that weren’t recovered during the initial investigation. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, having a strong K9 program is going to increase the team’s missions.  The recent Clayton hasty search was originally a straight request from Clayton PD for “bloodhounds” to search for a medically at-risk 63-year-old man.  The officers were only looking for a dog to assist them.  When we spoke to them, we offered up the Hasty squad in addition to the K9s.  Clayton PD didn’t know that was an option.  Our Hasty squad responded (as did our K9s) and as a direct result of the Hasty squad's subsequent investigations, the subject was located.  We’ll see more of these situations as our dogs get requested.

We are going to see an uptick in requests for service as our overall capability expands.  The hard work the K9s are doing is going to ensure the work keeps coming.  This coupled with the great work all of you are doing ensures when we are called we provide the best service we can to the Office of the Sheriff and the county.  Thanks again