Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 5:09 pm | Mostly Cloudy 71º


Local News

After 46 Years, Chief Deputy Sam Gross Retires from Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department

Sheriff Bill Brown awarded him the 2017 Guerry Award for Superior Performance and asked him to serve as the department's volunteer historian

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown recognizes Chief Deputy Sam Gross with the 2017 H. Thomas Guerry Award for Superior Performance. Gross is retiring after 46 years working at the department. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown recognizes Chief Deputy Sam Gross with the 2017 H. Thomas Guerry Award for Superior Performance. Gross is retiring after 46 years working at the department.  (Contributed photo)

It happened more than two decades ago, but Chief Deputy Sam Gross remembers the day vividly.

He was transporting 12 jail inmates at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse elevator when, out of nowhere, one of them tried to steal his gun. The other inmates watched, while Gross defended himself in the close quarters.

“He bit my hand and grabbed at my holster,” said Gross, who managed to fight off the man until the elevator opened and deputies whisked the inmate away.

“It seemed like forever,” Gross said. “I was trying very hard to be sure he did not get my firearm.”

The experience was just one of the many memorable moments for Gross during his 46 years working for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

Gross, 68, is retiring Friday after working a job he never stopped loving.

“It was a great job,” he said.

Gross has been involved in many major events over the last five decades, from the Michael Jackson trial and the Painted Cave Fire to the David Attias Isla Vista car rampage and the Isla Vista massacre in 2014. 

He’s given more than 500 polygraph tests, written thousands of tickets, and had plenty of confrontations. 

“I’ve rolled around on the ground with a lot of people in my career,” Gross said. He held numerous assignments and earned more than 60 letters of commendations during his years with law enforcement.

Gross moved to Santa Barbara with his parents when he was in junior high school, and later graduated from San Marcos High School.

Sam Gross in 1974, soon after he started working at the Sheriff’s Department. Click to view larger
Sam Gross in 1974, soon after he started working at the Sheriff’s Department.  (Contributed photo)

He wasn’t the kind of guy who grew up yearning to be a law enforcement officer. As an adult it was a job that sounded interesting and he pursued it.

“I love the interaction with the people,” Gross said. “For the most part, most people have treated me well.”

Gross spent a decade of his patrol career working the streets of Isla Vista. While the area has a reputation for being rowdy, Gross said things are better today.

“I think Isla Vista is a lot quieter than it used to be,” Gross said. The one difference in crime, he said, is that much of the violence these days feels like it is unprovoked. He said he worries about the safety of law enforcement.

“I am very worried about what appears to be the random attacks on law enforcement,” Gross said.

Sheriff Bill Brown honored Gross at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

“I have been the beneficiary of his counsel and his candor and I am going to miss him immensely,”Brown said. “Seeing such an incredible amount of institutional knowledge walk out of the door is difficult for our organization.”

Brown asked Gross to work on a Sheriff’s Office history project and become the department’s volunteer historian.

“He is a class act,” Brown said. “He is a quality person.”

Gross said at the meeting, “It’s been a pleasure to serve the county of Santa Barbara. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

Gross is looking forward to retirement, which starts after his shift Friday.

“Monday, I am going to sleep in,” he said.

Still, he will miss the work, which is one of the reasons he held on so long. At 68, he could have retired more than a decade ago.

“I was having a good time,” Gross said. “I felt I was still making a contribution and I hadn’t lost my edge.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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.

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