Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott is committed to being innovative and proactive in serving the community. As a part of that commitment, Lott is involved in the International Exchange Program with law enforcement depar tments across the globe. The exchange program allows the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, as well as visiting agencies, to learn about the different cultures, history, and policing strategies and to exchange ideas. Recently, Lott visited Puerto Rico as a part of the Exchange Program to assist, and learn more about their culture as the sher iff is aware of the growth among the Hispanic community in Richland County and is passionate about effectively and fairly serving ALL citizens.
In September 2014, Lott and Corporal Raul Ortiz visited Puerto Rico’s Police Department and exchanged policing strategies and policies that may be implemented at the Sher iff ’s Department. The sheriff and Cpl. Ortiz learned there is only one police department that handles all 3,515 square miles of Puerto Rico; the department employs 14,000 very hard working and dedicated officers.
In Puerto Rico, officers attend the police academy for at least eight months to one year, must have at least an associate’s degree, and have to work for 40 years before being eligible for retirement; all of which proves how dedicated an individual must be to do the job.
In addition, being a police officer in Puerto Rico is not easy as it is a high crime location with a report of at least 1,000 murders in 2013. Lott said Puerto Rico’s Police Department is made up of committed individuals who are determined to make Puerto Rico a safer place, much like our deputies here at home.
During their visit, the chief of the Puerto Rico Police Department assigned a security and protection team to escort the sher iff from their Department’s Protective Services Unit. Among those individuals was Officer Karla Gonzales. Gonzales has been working with Puer to Rico’s Police Department for the past four years and is already known as being an aggressive and effective officer. Lott said Officer Gonzales was very professional to work with and in turn invited her through the Exchange Program to visit the Richland County Sher iff ’s Department to observe our policing strategies in our environment.
As a result, Officer Gonzales will soon be joining the Richland County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy. Lott said he is excited that an exchange trip turned into something of a recruitment adventure; the sheriff believes Officer Gonzales’s skill and experience will bring great things to the department and to the Hispanic community of Richland County and looks forward to her future with the department.
Lott is proud of the diversity and incredibly multicultural population within the Richland County Sheriff’s Department adding there is always someone here our citizens can relate to. In addition, Lott believes that greater knowledge leads to greater success. The sheriff said with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s mission to improve the quality of life for ALL citizens, it is our duty to gain as much knowledge as possible and that is why the Exchange Program is so important. Lott is committed to continuing efforts to provide the citizens of Richland County with the best and most innovative deputies, services, and department as a whole.