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New San Luis Obispo police chief starting at unprecedented time for department

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - A month into the job, Rick Scott is settling in as Chief of Police in San Luis Obispo after arriving under unprecedented circumstances.

"It's been incredibly exciting, and then tempered with grief and pain," Scott said.

Scott was set to start on May 13. On May 10, detective Luca Benedetti was shot and killed while serving a warrant.

"I didn't have to do anything other than just be here and they pulled me in as part of the family," Scott said. "I think together we lifted each other up and worked very hard along with our partners to give Luca the proper memorial that he and his family deserved."

Scott says his message to the department during a time of grief has been:

"Strength and resilience and love. We have to support one another whenever we're challenged in times like these."

Scott comes from North Richland Hills, Texas, a Dallas suburb. He worked his way up to Assistant Chief. Moving his wife and children here is the first time he's lived outside of Texas.

"I saw immediately that the values that this community has and this department has are perfectly aligned with my values," Scott said.

Scott believes in progressive policing, and wants to find ways to further positive interactions with the community.

In Texas, he was part of a program called Unidos, reaching out to the Hispanic community in underprivileged areas. He says the city and the North Richland Hills Department helped people fulfill basic needs like getting access to health care and school supplies, and that in turn built trust.

"As a function of that we started getting more phone calls for service from that segment of our community," Scott said. "I think we started to figure out that we were more needed, and we were probably under utilized because of lacking of trust factor."

On calls for police reform Scott says:

"We've been asking for police reform for years. We know there's many aspects of this job that need better legislation, and need support from our state governments as well as at the Federal level. So we know there's aspects of this job that can be reinforced at the local level if we get some of those reform measures passed.

"I think a meaningful conversation with law enforcement at the table about what police reform looks like, we can do great things with that kind of backing," Scott said.

He says having citizens involved in the way policy is set is important.

"We should be ready to have difficult conversations," Scott said. "I think for many years as a profession we have shied away from having some of those more difficult conversations about how segments of our community wish to be policed and how we can do better in serving them."

Black Lives Matter protests ending with police using tear gas and making arrests brought national attention to San Luis Obispo in 2020.

Scott says his department will align with city goals of diversity, equity and inclusion.

"The framework is already there," Scott said. "We have a highly engaged community. There's lots of traction for our diversity, equity and inclusion task force. The future is very exciting knowing they're going to be in our corner helping us find these avenues to reach all parts of our community."

Article Topic Follows: San Luis Obispo County
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Scott Hennessee

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