Sacramento County Sheriff race set for Nov. 2 showdown

Jones, Cooper to battle it out at the polls
By: Don Chaddock Telegraph Managing Editor
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Two Sacramento County Sheriff captains are set for a ballot box showdown on Tuesday. Jim Cooper and Scott Jones are in a runoff to replace retiring Sheriff John McGinness, who happens to be a Folsom resident. The Telegraph asked each candidate the same questions and these are their answers. Cooper’s responses arrived by e-mail an hour before press deadline on Monday. Jones met with the Telegraph staff three weeks ago. How important is transparency in the department? Cooper: “Transparency within any law enforcement agency is extremely important. The public deserves to know how the department as a whole is delivering services directly related to their quality of life, and how their taxpayers dollars are being spent. “In these times of economic shortages, the public needs to know that the Sheriff’s Department is living within its means.” Jones: “That is a huge issue for me. ... I got promoted to captain just after McGinness took over. I loved what he was doing with transparency and access. ... After I took over the main jail, we had a media tour and nothing was off limits. I made it easier for media access. ... We turned concrete walls to glass. “(That’s when) we started getting positive press. I very much believe in transparency. We’re the custodian of taxpayer dollars. It’s not my money to spend.” How important is the role of sheriff being the public face of the agency? Cooper: “The sheriff is whom the public connects with. I believe that it is not enough to see the sheriff as an aloof figure who appears in print or on television once in a while, but a sheriff who is accessible by being present at community meeting and events. Sacramento is a diverse community with encapsulated neighborhoods, each with different concerns and issues. I will be physically present to meet their needs.” Jones: “It’s extremely important. It’s part law enforcement and it’s part political. Whoever is sitting in that office has to embody that. ... If I build relationships of trust, that makes my deputies’ jobs easier. ... You have to build relationships with everybody (including) legislators. ... By having history as politician (as an Elk Grove City Councilman), (Cooper) also has a record. I have more support on his council than he does.” Why should Folsom voters care who serves as sheriff? Cooper: “The sheriff is the correctional authority within the county. The sheriff can have direct control on getting Folsom Police officers back out on the street as quickly as possible after they book an arrestee at the main jail. Currently the booking process is backlogged and sometimes takes three to four hours before your officers can return to your community to respond to calls for service. “The sheriff also provides law enforcement contracts with many private (and) public entities around the county that are used by Folsom residents.” Jones: “Even though there is a Folsom Police Department, we provide jail (and) court facilities and airport security on behalf of Folsom residents. ... The more prolonged our economic recovery and health, will impact Folsom. “If we continue putting our resources in foundations that don’t spur economic recovery, that also impacts Folsom. Business will speed recovery (and) law enforcement plays a role in that.” How do you propose to provide coverage given the current budget climate? Cooper: “The obvious answer is to be more efficient at competing for, and securing outside funding to hire more deputies. This cannot be ignored. Neither can revenue-generating programs and private partnership with businesses. We have many opportunities with training venues to develop revenue to put more officers on the street. Generating revenue is not raising (or) creating more fees and taxes, I do not support that. “But the most important and immediate problem solving approach is to make sure all our resources are being used correctly. I believe there are positions and programs still within the Sheriff’s Department that can be immediately re-directed to improve our calls for service response times and bring back some pro-active law enforcement programs.” Jones: “(Overall) we lost more than 400 positions. It’s very difficult to manage. We’re not proactive but reactive (but) we still have the public to protect. ... We start looking in the mirror and start looking at ways (to provide service). We start regionalization of services. We combine resources and cut overhead. That’s how we grow and move forward. “We need an outside audit. If there is somebody doing something better than us, let’s steal (the idea). All growth will come from internal efficiencies. We need to have a fluid deployment model. Let’s say in Carmichael, we’re having a spike in daytime home burglaries, we can use that fluid model. We need to be realistic.”