The County Board of Supervisors’ possible establishment of a Sheriff’s oversight committee or inspector general is a subject that needs to be carefully considered.  Since the passage of SB 1185, (which gives the County Board of Supervisors the authority to establish such a committee), many in our community have expressed their thoughts and opinions on the topic – some in favor, some opposed. 

As a Captain in the Sheriff’s Office and a candidate for Sheriff, I want to share my thoughts on the creation of an oversight committee.

I am not opposed to constructive oversight of elected or appointed public officials.  The very nature of the process for how we elect our government officials provides built in oversight by our voting community.  I understand the importance of making sure our elected officials are conducting public business in a fair and ethical manner.  Those that deviate from these principles should be held accountable through whatever means legally available.

But when we discuss the idea of a Sheriff’s oversight committee, here’s my question: what is the intended purpose of such a committee?  The Sheriff’s Office already has extensive oversight built into the way the Sheriff’s Office conducts its business.  That oversight comes in the form of the following:

  1. State Department of Justice (DOJ):  DOJ has the responsibility and authority to investigate suspected illegal activity conducted by any law enforcement organization in the State of California.  DOJ also conducts extensive monitoring of the use of law enforcement databases used by our local police and sheriff’s office staff.  Severe sanctions can be administered for inappropriate access to or misuse of the information contained in the databases.

  2. Civil Grand Jury:  The Civil Grand Jury has the authority to investigate any complaints lodged against any of the Offices or Departments of County government.  The Grand Jury has full subpoena powers and provides the public with their findings and recommendations for improvement and corrective action.

  3. District Attorney’s Office: The District Attorney has the authority to investigate any complaint of suspected illegal activity conducted by any law enforcement organization in the County.

  4. Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST):  POST has increasingly been given more oversight authority over the training and certification of peace officers in the State.  Our legislature is currently discussing the options associated with a process to decertify peace officers who do not meet the minimum requirements to maintain their peace officer status.

  5. Standards and Training for Corrections (STC):  STC sets and monitors the training compliance for corrections staff, which includes our Custody Operations deputies.

  6. Bureau of State and Community Corrections (BSCC):  BSCC has increasingly been given more oversight authority over the operation of the County Jail.  This oversight includes a large amount of documentation review and yearly physical inspection of our Jail facilities.  The BSCC inspector follows each of these yearly reviews with a written report of their findings with suggestions on improvements, if needed.

  7. Court-Appointed monitoring:  As a result of a class action lawsuit settlement agreement, the County Jail is subject to intensive inspection by neutral court-appointed monitors who are recruited as experts in the field they are responsible for monitoring.  The reports written by these monitors are submitted to the Court along with corrective action recommendations.

  8. The voters of Monterey County:  One of the main reasons why the Sheriff is an elected position is to ensure that the Sheriff is responsive to the needs of the citizens of Monterey County.  Every four years, the voters have the opportunity to decide who they feel is the best candidate to be the top law enforcement official in the County.  The voters have the ultimate oversight authority in that they can remove Sheriffs from office if the majority do not feel they are meeting the expectations of the community.

I have had the opportunity to discuss this issue with 4 of our 5 Board of Supervisor members, including District 4 Supervisor Wendy Root-Askew who authored this proposal – and I am in the process of scheduling a meeting with the 5th member in the near future.  These discussions have been very productive and we have had very open and respectful exchanges of ideas.  The message I have been sending in these meetings is that we need to carefully define what the Board is trying to achieve before deciding to implement a Sheriff’s oversight committee. This process is essential to inform the best way to achieve the stated goal.  In the end, we may find that an oversight committee is necessary; or we may find that the checks and balances that are already in place are sufficient to meet the stated goal and if we share existing information more succinctly, we can provide a clear assessment of how the Sheriff’s Office is operating and what needs improvement.

We must keep in mind that the Sheriff’s Office expends a large amount of time, money, and resources to meet the requirements set forth by the agencies I identified above. Adding another entity to this list will cost more time, money, and resources. Is there a more efficient means to reach the same goal? I welcome constructive scrutiny from all parts of our community because this is the best way to continue to improve the operations of the Sheriff’s Office. I also welcome input on ideas for the best way to provide for the safety and security for all of Monterey County. Through both our democratic process and collaboration with the Board of Supervisors, I believe we can move forward with a common-sense approach to making sure the Sheriff’s Office is well-run and meeting its goal of keeping the people of Monterey County safe.