With its roots embedded in Spanish California, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office has always been a reflection of the community it serves. Founded in 1850, it stands with the oldest law enforcement agencies in the state.

From the days of Russell Heath, who battled infamous outlaws Solomon Pico and Jack Powers, to Bill Brown, there have been 22 men who have taken the oath of office for Sheriff.

The Agency itself has seen dramatic changes over its 150-year history. From the days of the single Sheriff, aided only by a jailer and guard in charge of the chain gang, the Agency has grown to over 600 sworn and non-sworn employees providing a wide variety of services to the public.

Eight Sheriff's Stations throughout the county now provide community-oriented services from Isla Vista in the south to the Cuyama Valley in the north. Deputies patrol on foot, from bicycles and radio-equipped squad cars, motorcycles, horses, boats and aircraft, in whatever manner the situation dictates.

Detectives employ the latest forensic techniques of crime investigation, while modern communications ensure the most rapid response to the emergency needs of citizen and officer alike.

Modern correctional facilities have replaced the old County Jails of the past. The Spanish Jailhouse of the 1850's, where escape was easily obtained by merely digging through the soft adobe walls, is a relic of history. After outgrowing the Jail section of the County Courthouse, Custody operations moved to its current facility in 1971, with additions in 1987 and 1992. The jail now provides up-to-date security and humane treatment for all persons remanded to the custody of the Sheriff.

The Sheriff's Office is proud of its record throughout the years, and is constantly striving to improve its public protection and community services for citizens of Santa Barbara County. The experiences of the past continue to serve as a reference to us in our efforts to meet the law enforcement needs of today, and plan for the challenges of tomorrow.





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A call to arms (keyboards and telephones)

Don’t let our/your history disappear!


Department history projects:

Although latent for a number of years, we are trying to get several department history projects moving forward and need your help.  These history projects include:

  • Creation of a department history book
  • An account of all names, dates of service and rank of persons employed by SBSO as far back as possible.
  • Creation of a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office history museum
  • Creation of a department yearbook, which will include a significant amount of history content.

How YOU can help/ what we need:

  • Volunteers!  The only realistic way we will be successful in most of these history projects is through the involvement, sharing of knowledge and donated time of our retired personnel and their family members.
    • Sharing, collecting and collating stories, information and pictures.
    • Following up on history leads.
    • Verification and editing of content.
    • And most of all, we need your ideas…  Is there a better way of going about this?
  • Interesting pictures involving SBSO and its personnel, along with written descriptions of the picture content and origin of the photograph.
    • Photographs and negatives will be electronically scanned and returned to the person providing them.
  • Short stories of significant events involving SBSO and its personnel.
  • Leads and introductions to family members of SBSO personal who have passed.  In order to obtain photographs and information relating to pre 1960’s SBSO history, it is realistically going to have to come from family members.
  • SBSO related memorabilia donations.


Points of contact:

  • Lieutenant Craig Bonner
  • Your name here?… We are looking for volunteers to help coordinate this effort!


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