Examiner.com/Sharon Gilbert-San Bernardino County has a rich western heritage. Its valley was once a thriving agricultural area filled with citrus groves, vineyards and dairies. To this day the upper desert includes farms and ranches along with sprawling Bureau of Land Management (BLM) range land that reaches all the way to the state borders. It is also home to the third largest law enforcement agency in the state, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
Back in the day, many bigger-than-life western outlaws and heroes, both real and of the silver screen variety, called the area home. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were Apple Valley’s most famous residents and are laid to rest not far from their home. Gene Autry built a set out in Pioneertown where many of the biggest western stars made movies romanticizing the west.
In real life, Wyatt Earp, his parents and his brothers lived much of their lives in the county, and it is the final resting place of many members of the Earp family. Virgil and father Nick both served as lawmen in Colton. Wyatt was commissioned as a “non-salaried deputy” by then-Sheriff Walter Shay and received a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s badge after capturing a robbery suspect in Vidal, Calif.
Today, Sheriff John McMahon is the San Bernardino County’s top cop, where he may not always ride into the sunset with a bad guy in tow, but he dedicates himself to preserving the county’s western heritage. He oversees more than 1,700 sworn lawmen and he also serves as chairman of the Executive Board of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Rodeo.
McMahon took some time from his busy campaign schedule to talk about the challenges of policing in a county as large and diverse as San Bernardino. At more than 20,000 square miles, San Bernardino is the largest county in the United States. It is as varied in topography and lifestyle as any.
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