Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Former Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney, left, congratulates newly appointed Sheriff Tyson Pogue after Varney administered the oath of office during the Madera County Board of Supervisors meeting on June 16.
Throughout his 19-year tenure with the Madera County Sheriff’s Department, newly minted Sheriff Tyson Pogue thought he had had the best job and couldn’t see himself do anything else.
However, that has lasted every step of the way for Pogue. From being a deputy on patrol to handling a K-9 unit, Pogue thought he had the best job in the world. Then, he took the sergeant’s exam, passed and became a sergeant. He thought that was the best job.
Then, the chance to move up the chain of command was an opportunity for Pogue. He became a lieutenant and thought that was the best job. When Jay Varney became the sheriff, Pogue was named the Undersheriff.
“It was the greatest,” Pogue said. “I’m working for the best guys and I’m going to be here for a long time. I love this job.
With Varney resigning and taking the head county position of Madera County Administrative Officer, Pogue was named to be his successor and is excited about the new opportunity.
The Madera Tribune had a chance to catch up with Pogue days after he was officially sworn in at the Madera County Board of Supervisor’s meeting on June 16.
Trib: How tough is it in law enforcement today?
Pogue: One of the hardest things is we are in a true tumultuous time in law enforcement. Community relationships are strained. I’m not talking about Madera County, but in general. It depends on who you listen to. Is it politically driven, is it media driven? Who knows? Whatever the case may be, there’s a definite divide between law enforcement and your citizenship.
Where we’re so lucky in Madera County is we have overwhelming support from the citizens here. They love the deputies and police officers. In turn, we have a great relationship with them. We are at community events. We show up and support them.
I think law enforcement has strained relationships with the communities, I don’t think that’s necessarily true with Madera County. For the most part, in Madera County, the citizens love our law enforcement and the law enforcement loves our citizens. You don’t see that divide here.
Trib: Your previous sheriffs made sure to take part in community events or support events to cultivate that relationship.
Pogue: All of law enforcement wants to be more involved with the community. Our deputies need that relationship with the community, so when crimes happen, the community trusts them enough to tell them what happened.
For example, if you have a shooting and you go out there, and if you have a strained relationship with the community, they aren’t going to want to talk to you. Therefore, we are unable to solve a potentially horrific crime. Versus, if you have a relationship with the community, they will tell you what happened because they trust you. You have to develop that community trust. Not to mention, it’s a whole lot safer for the deputies to go into a friendly environment versus a contingent environment.
It’s very important we get out to these community events. There’s a recruiting part to it, too. We want the best of the best working here. What better way to find it than to talk to the community members to learn who is going to be a good fit.
Trib: You are taking the job at a tough time in the world with the COVID-19 pandemic and the attitude towards social injustice. How do you feel about that?
Pogue: One thing that makes Madera County unique is the Madera County Sheriff’s Office is also the Director of the Office of Emergency Services for the county. I’m not just stepping into the role of the chief law enforcement officer for the county, but I am the emergency services director and the coroner. I wear three very large hats for three very large roles in the county.
In the very beginning, I was the boots on the ground with the health department, getting our rapid tracing team started and managing the day-to-day operations of it up to the current time.
Although our role is diminishing as the responsibilities transfer, the role is somewhat lessened, but we’re still highly plugged in. Our personnel are still dedicated there, serving isolation quarantine orders. It’s a very difficult task. It’s hard times for everybody.
Clearly, we go to these community meetings and we get hammered on both sides. You get hammered by people who don’t want things to open because they are scared. You get hammered by people who want things to open because we’re tanking the economy. Rightfully so, there are things happening there, too. No matter what side of the spectrum you are on, you are upset. We try to talk to these people at these community meetings and it’s tough to manage.
Trib: You get thrust into this situation now. You could have picked a better time.
Pogue: A downside of COVID-19, there’s the budget. You are looking at some cost-saving measures that are going to be implemented so we don’t put ourselves in a bad spot within the county because of strained relationships with the community, COVID-19, budgetary restraints.
You won’t see us defund the police or sheriff. You won’t see that in Madera County. Our Board of Supervisors is very supportive. Clearly, our Chief Administrative Officer is supportive and the community is supportive of law enforcement.
We’re very grateful not to have to deal with that extra outside pressure. But, we still have the loss of the sales tax revenue that will impact the county budget.
Trib: How would you describe yourself differently than your predecessor?
Pogue: I don’t know. Over the last three years, I have been (Varney’s) boots on the ground, day-to-day guy. Our priorities and viewpoints mesh really, really well. That’s why we were so successful.
To say I’m different because I want to do this, you’re going to have a hard time finding something. Clearly, if there was anything I wanted to do different, I would bring it to Sheriff Varney and he would be very supportive.
Operationally, I can’t tell you any changes. I know that every personality is very different. He and I were very complementary of each other. Our ethics, morals and objectives for law enforcement lined up with each other.
Trib: What is your leadership style? Have you taken from what you’ve learned from the past sheriffs to your philosophy?
Pogue: Clearly, Sheriff Varney and I were in sync just like I was in sync with Sheriff (John) Anderson. You see distinct personality differences between the two. Everyone that comes in will have their own way of handling things. I will find my own way of handling things. Sheriff Varney was my mentor. I rely a lot on the things he taught me. Going forward, you will see mostly his personality showing up at the office.
Trib: Kind of status quo, then?
Pogue: Status quo is not necessarily a bad thing. If things aren’t going well, obviously status quo isn’t good for the county. Under the tutelage of Sheriff Varney, things have gone very well for us. He’s allowed me to implement a lot of programs that have been very successful. I haven’t really found my footing in how I’m different in this area. It’s still too new.
Trib: Do you have any ideas you wanted to implement before that you can do now?
Pogue: There are things that I’ve wanted to do. It’s not that Sheriff Varney said no. It’s just there’s so many hours in the day. We accomplish what we can accomplish during the day.
Moving forward, I would like to revitalize the Concealed Carry Weapons permitting process to allow online applications. I want to streamline that so they (applicants) can fill out the form at home.
I’m a self-proclaimed techno nerd. So, where we can use technology to increase efficiency or better law enforcement, I’m always going to try to take that road. Maybe, we’ll look into online reporting to allow people to report crimes online without having to call a deputy to their house.
As society goes, you have less and less of the community wanting to talk to people. If they can just fill out a report on their own, maybe they will be happy with it.
We will never get to a point where if you want a deputy to come out, they won’t come out. I would like to do the Citizens Academy and set up a citizens’ advisory board where we can discuss ways to improve relationships within the community. There’s various training that we would get to.
Trib: 19 years ago, when you started, did you think you would be sitting in that chair?
Pogue: No, not for a second. As you start progressing through my career, every job I had was the best job I ever had. When I was first started as a deputy, I loved being a deputy. I got to talk to people, I got to go on calls and go look for bad guys. It was the best.
Then, I got a dog. I thought I would be a canine handler until the day I die. It’s the best job I’ll ever have. Then, I’m on the narcotics task force. By far, this is the best job I’ve ever had. I never want to leave here.
Then, I took the sergeant’s exam because maybe someday I would want to promote. Then, I’m on the list and I’m a sergeant. I’m leading this young team of people. This is the best job I’ve ever had. I will never not be a sergeant. Then, it’s a lieutenant. Oh my gosh, I get to say yes to things I’ve always wanted to change. I can make these changes.
As you keep going, that’s the best part of progression, you have more and more influence to say yes and make positive changes over working environment for the community, deputies and civilian employees.
The ability to say yes and make positive changes is, by far, the best job I’ll ever have. Even as Undersheriff, it was the greatest. I’m working for the best guys and I’m going to be here for a long time. I love this job and like working for Varney and now, here I am.
Now, I’m starting off in this new career and you start out and, okay, this is cool. I’m going to like this a lot. The more and more I get going, the more and more I realize this is going to be the greatest job I’ll ever have.
There’s something poetic being born and raised in Madera County, working your way up from the photo shop to the newspaper.
You make all these jobs and circle all the way back around and you’re able to serve the community that has given so much to me. It’s a community I grew up in. I love these people. To be able to give back and have that vested interest in doing good is an amazing feeling.”
Trib: How much longer is your term?
Pogue: It goes to Jan. 2 in 2023. There will be an election in November of 2022.