Sheriff hopefuls draw battle lines

One claims ‘tent city jail’ could save county money
By: Don Chaddock Telegraph Managing Editor
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Candidates for the post of Sacramento County’s top lawman recently squared off in Folsom with topics ranging from early release of prisoners to making the jail a “tent city.” Hosted by the Folsom Chamber of Commerce, the candidate forum sported two current Sacramento Sheriff Department captains, Scott Jones and Jim Cooper, along with former deputy Bret Daniels. Cooper, a 25-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, boasts a hefty campaign war chest after a $50,000 donation from the Deputy Sheriff’s Association. “Right now, we’re in crisis,” Cooper said. “In August of last year, we laid off 122 deputies. We laid off more than any other county or municipal police department (in the state).” He said the department has become more reactionary and less proactive out of necessity. “We don’t have adequate staffing,” he said. “(The department is) broken and has been broken for the last four years.” Cooper’s reference was a shot at outgoing Sheriff John McGinness, a Folsom resident. Cooper is a member of the Elk Grove City Council and is a former mayor. Jones, a 20-year veteran of the department, said his close association as an adviser to McGinness has been a detriment internally and a benefit with the general public. “It’s a double-edged sword,” Jones told the Telegraph. “It hurt me (with the lack of union endorsements). Certainly there are morale issues in the department. … Externally, with people in the real world, it helped me.” Jones said he is no “McGinness clone” and has his own vision for the department. He said McGinness did a lot to improve the department’s image in the eyes of the public and he wants to continue that tradition of accountability and accessibility. Jones also said the department has become reactive, meaning they are answering emergency calls. “The question is one of prioritizing,” he said. Daniels, who served on the Citrus Heights City Council from 1999-2005 and was mayor his last year in office, said the law enforcement agency has been struggling. “I believe for the last 12 years, we’ve been spiraling,” Daniels said. “Our detectives are solving less than 20 percent of crimes. That’s unconscionable.” Daniels said he’s the only candidate to offer a solid plan and claims he has more real on-the-street law enforcement experience than his opponents. “I want to regionalize (and restructure) the department,” he said. “I will bring a common sense business approach.” He alleges the number of managers within the department has grown from around 180 in 1998 to more than 280 in 2008. “This bloated management model needs to be destroyed,” he said. “We (also) need to make sure the county doesn’t balance its budget on the back of public safety.” He said cost-saving changes at the jail could also be made. Daniels said he doesn’t believe jail “should be a step up” in lifestyle for people. He said creating a “tent city jail” is a real possibility for the county to save money. Cooper said departmental cuts should not have included revenue-generating positions, such as those that brought in grant funding. He said regionalizing the department wouldn’t be an easy task as other agencies have their own turf they want to protect. Jones said grants aren’t the cure-all for what ails the county and that many of those grants require matching funds. He said while others talk about trying to regionalize, he’s actually gone out and made contacts with other municipalities in the county. Daniels said the talk of grants and endorsements was “fairy dust” and masked the real problem of the department’s broken internal systems and “empire building.” Cooper and Daniels said the county’s early release of inmates from the jail was a bad idea. Jones, who is the legal adviser to the sheriff, defended the decision and said the courts eventually backed it as well. Jones received the endorsement of the Folsom Chamber of Commerce following the forum.