Santa Clara County officials say it's not worth the gamble to send Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr.'s new full-time bodyguard -- at taxpayer expense -- to Las Vegas next week to learn how to be a better bodyguard.
Instead, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said her office will try to find an "executive protection agent training course" that's closer to home and would cost the county less money.
The idea for a so-called "dignitary security officer" was suggested by Smith as a way of providing what she believes is necessary protection for the county Board of Supervisors president, who this year happens to be Shirakawa.
Supervisors were set to vote to authorize the trip at their Tuesday meeting, but Shirakawa asked for the item to be pulled from the agenda. The proposed trip had made headlines in a front-page Mercury News column Tuesday.
After Tuesday's meeting, Shirakawa explained that Smith had told him early Monday that she was uncomfortable that the training was in Las Vegas, which the supervisor's office had booked for his bodyguard, sheriff's Deputy Alex Flores.
Smith was unavailable for comment Tuesday. But sheriff's Sgt. Jose Cardoza said when Smith learned late Sunday night of the location of the $895 three-day course and then early Monday that the state's Peace Officer Standards and Training commission wouldn't reimburse the county for the expense, she advised Shirakawa to cancel the trip.
Flores, who was
Asked whether there is any need to provide a training course almost six months into a one-year pilot program, Cardoza said it's not unusual for such training to come several months into a public safety officer's new assignment.
Cardoza said airfare and accommodations for the trip had not been made yet, and that because of tight budgets, those costs are often picked up by the person receiving the training.
Shirakawa said Flores' duties include serving as his driver to public meetings, where Flores also acts as his security detail.
The supervisor confirmed that he has never received any threats but said developing a pilot program for a bodyguard for the board president is something he agreed to and that he takes seriously as a former military police officer who believes in taking preventive action.
"I just want him to have the training -- it doesn't matter what city it's in," said Shirakawa, adding that Flores does not drink or gamble. "Providing security for the board president -- not Georgey -- is a good idea."
The supervisor said the pilot program is meant to determine if the protection is needed, how many hours would be necessary and at what cost. Based on the information gathered this year, he said, next year's board president could decide whether or not to keep a bodyguard.
Contact Tracy Seipel at 408 275-0140.