Pubdate: Sun, 15 Mar 2009
Source: Daily Press (Victorville, CA)
Copyright: 2009 Freedom Communications, Inc.
Author: Beatriz Valenzuela
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


For more than five years, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Lt. Barbara 
Ferguson has been helping the men and women of the department protect 
the public.

But instead of a gun and badge, Ferguson relies on her powers of 
persuasion as she maneuvers through the state Capitol and the halls 
of Congress in Washington, D.C., serving as the Sheriff's 
Department's legislative liaison. The High Desert resident lobbies 
legislators to help pass or defeat bills that affect public safety 
and the Sheriff's Department.

"She is very important," Karen Hunt, spokeswoman for the San 
Bernardino County Sheriff's Victorville station, said. "She is in 
Washington, D.C., and Sacramento as a representative of our sheriff 
and for our concerns on all issues."

One of her top priorities is dealing with the current economic situation.

Ferguson is actively trying to save $7.2 million the department uses 
for various projects and operations. One grant that was lost was $1 
million used for the Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction Grant.

"The program does help to reduce recidivism among the mentally ill," she said.

She said that making sure these offenders are taking their 
medications and are given strong support allows them to progress in a 
positive way.

While the grant was lost, the program is currently being funded 
through an alternate source, but the money is still in danger of being lost.

Ferguson is not only instrumental in lobbying for the passage of 
bills but also for the defeat of bills that will hinder the ability 
of law enforcement to keep communities safe.

"There is currently legislation that will attempt to legalize the use 
and cultivation of marijuana, and we are opposed to that," she said, 
adding that marijuana is a gateway drug that can lead to other harder 
drugs. "We have a big fight on our hands with that."

Ferguson became a sergeant at the Victor Valley station until 1999, 
when she was transfered to Sheriff's Headquarters to be in charge of 
doing background checks. Ferguson was hand-picked by former Sheriff 
Gary Penrod for the position in 2003.

"This is a lieutenant's position, so when he called me up and asked 
me about the position, I had to take the lieutenant's exam and I 
passed," she said.

Now, Ferguson splits her time between San Bernardino and Sacramento.

"I love it," said Ferguson, who began her career with the department 
in 1981 as a dispatcher in Needles.

"The relationships I've been able to cultivate have allowed me to 
help pass bills and raise millions of dollars for important projects 
to help keep the public safe."
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