Pixel Tracker

Monday, December 10 , 2018, 5:34 am | Fair 50º


Acting Undersheriff Don Patterson Officially Retired, But Not Quite Ready to Move On

After 30 years in Santa Barbara County law enforcement, veteran officer still on the job while search for replacement continues

The time to retire has arrived at last, and Santa Barbara County Acting Undersheriff Don Patterson says he’s ready to leave the Sheriff’s Department in able hands.

Patterson, 59, officially retired Nov. 8 but agreed to stay on as an hourly employee with no benefits until Sheriff Bill Brown picks a permanent replacement to fill the seasoned veteran’s shoes.

While Patterson said that announcement could come as early as this week, he wasn’t sure if he’d be staying on until the end of the year or even into early 2015. It all depends on when a yet-to-be named undersheriff could start work.

The Sheriff’s Department would not confirm whether the new hire was from within the department or from outside the area, and spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said the search, which began Sept. 22, was still ongoing last week.

Patterson said he was never tempted to take the permanent post since retirement plans were in the works for a year or so. He said he aimed to be done before he turns 60 in June.

“I’ve had so many people ask me to stick around,” said Patterson, who has spent 30 years in law enforcement. “If I was five years younger, I’d be staying, but it’s time for me to leave. It’s a very difficult decision for me, but I’m a firm believer that the hardest decision is the right one.”

A San Diego native, Patterson received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Long Beach State University before he was hired as a deputy with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and then transferred to Santa Barbara County two years later, in 1979.

He worked as a patrol deputy and a member of the sheriff’s Special Enforcement Team before he left the department for five years to earn a master’s degree, help launch Goleta’s CMC Rescue School and to work as a private consultant.

Santa Barbara County Acting Undersheriff Don Patterson in a patrol car not long after he started at the Sheriff's Department in 1979. (Patterson family photo)
Santa Barbara County Acting Undersheriff Don Patterson in a patrol car not long after he started at the Sheriff's Department in 1979. (Patterson family photo)

In 1997, Patterson returned as a sheriff’s reserve deputy before quickly working his way up to deputy, sergeant and lieutenant. Patterson was the first chief of police for the newly incorporated City of Goleta in 2002, before he was promoted to commander, chief of law enforcement operations and then acting undersheriff last year when Undersheriff Jim Peterson abruptly retired.

He fondly remembers assisting the Secret Service while on the Special Enforcement Team protecting former President Ronald Reagan at Rancho Del Cielo west of Goleta.

Helping arrest multiple-homicide suspect Kevin Cooper was another highlight. Cooper, an escaped prison inmate from San Bernardino County, was captured on a boat in the Santa Barbara Channel in 1983 after an intense manhunt following four murders at a home in Chino Hills. He was convicted of the crimes and is on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

Patterson will be missed at the department, where he earned the sheriff’s Meritorious Service Award for his leadership and service as the Law Enforcement Branch director on four major wildfires, including the Zaca Fire in 2007, the Gap and Tea fires in 2008 and the Jesusita Fire in 2009.

“Don Patterson has had a long and distinguished public safety career,” Brown said in a statement. “His reliability, dedication, department knowledge and keen intellect are second to none. Don’s even-tempered personality and his remarkable understanding of organizational management make him a model team player and collaborator, both inside and outside our agency.

“For the past year he assumed the difficult and demanding role of undersheriff, and he has done an absolutely superb job. I will always be grateful for the dedication and loyalty Don has shown to me, to the Sheriff’s Office and to the people of Santa Barbara County.”

Patterson said he was happy to be saving the county about $8,000 a month by working while a search continues for a new undersheriff, who he could help during a transition.

His next challenge: taking a month off from all work to decompress at his Goleta home on request from his wife, whom he met on a call years ago.

Patterson plans to go back to teaching at Chapman University in Orange and elsewhere, focusing on emergency and fire response training.

“I really want to get into the training aspect of it,” he said. “It hasn’t been easy. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful experience.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.