Newly-appointed San Jacinto police chief brings his career full circle
■ By Kyle Selby / Reporter
Lt. Chief John Salisbury, the successor to former Lt. Police Chief Patrick Chavez, was appointed by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department as the new Police Chief of San Jacinto on Thanksgiving Day.
Salisbury grew up right here in the San Jacinto Valley. He lived in Valle Vista when he was younger, graduated from Hemet High School, and even attended Mt. San Jacinto College. During and prior to his law enforcement career he worked for the volunteer fire service at Valle Vista Station 72 in 1991. He has been with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department since 1995.
Salisbury’s first assignment in law enforcement out of the academy was working in corrections at the Robert Presley Detention Center in downtown Riverside. He was there for nearly three years before his transition to Moreno Valley as a patrol officer in 1998. In early 2000, he moved to the Special Enforcement Team as deputy sheriff and later corporal. There, he focused mostly on gang-related activity in the Moreno Valley jurisdiction, documenting gang members, their criminal activity and intervening when he had the chance.
In April 2005, Salisbury was promoted to Sheriff Sgt. and transferred directly to the San Jacinto Police Station and worked for the SJPD for three years.
“Some of the most fulfilling times of my career were the three years that I spent here,” he said smiling. “I immensely enjoyed it. I just really needed to come back and work in the community where I grew up.”
Salisbury says that the crime rate in San Jacinto has remained fairly steady; however, his intent is to reduce it even further.
The focus of the SJPD today, however, seems to be a recent spike in fatal traffic collisions. Salisbury notes that population, street congestion, pedestrian safety, and improvements made to intersections as well as law enforcement are all factors that need to be considered in the solution. He is proud to say that the city still maintains its commitment to traffic safety, the traffic unit being one San Jacinto police unit that survived the Great Recession.
This is a family right here, and when you sit inside this building, it doesn’t take you very long to figure that out.”
– San Jacinto Lt. Chief John Salisbury
Chief Salisbury wants to make a difference in the lives of his community. He has intervened in the lives of several youths with positive results. One individual he encountered during his time in Moreno Valley sticks out. The young man was “headed down the wrong road,” as Salisbury puts it. With counseling, Salisbury was able to steer him in the right path, he recalls. Because of that influence, the two have since maintained a lasting relationship, and the two often meet and chat to this day.
“[This job] really is about relationships and doing the right things for the right reasons, and hopefully getting people to emulate that,” he explained. “That’s why we get out there and intervene and interact with the public.”
Salisbury’s father, John Salisbury Sr., was a sergeant with the sheriff’s department at the Hemet station for the majority of his career. The chief was inspired to follow in his father’s footsteps, growing up with a deep interest in law enforcement. His father would eventually push him in that direction, continually asking him when he would apply. The elder Salisbury passed away from cancer at the age of 49.
“Probably the most influential thing that happened to me was just watching and growing up in the law enforcement community and modeling the behavior of my father,” said Salisbury. “I really think that I gravitated toward that just as a result of watching him, and seeing the things he was able to do, and the people that he was able to help.”
Around 1987, when Salisbury was in high school, his father took a job with the Lake Hemet Municipal Water District, as one of two rangers for MWD. During that time, they lived on the Lake Hemet Campground where Chief Salisbury landed his first job at the Lake Hemet Market.
Today, Salisbury enjoys the outdoors—anything involving hiking, off-roading or fly-fishing, you can count him in. He, his wife, and three boys spend a lot of vacation time in Ocotillo Wells, Glamis, and the Eastern Sierra Mountains.
The holiday season may now be over, but it kept Chief Salisbury pretty busy. He recently participated in “Shop with a Cop,” an event that gathered donations to purchase gifts for children in need. While he spent the Christmas weekend at home with his family, he was on call and came into the station to cater Christmas dinner for the half of his staff who worked over the holiday.
“That’s what we do; we take care of each other. This is a family right here, and when you sit inside this building, it doesn’t take you very long to figure that out,” said Salisbury.