QUESTION 1: There is concern among civil libertarians and left and right political elements that local law enforcement is being armed to the point they represent a standing army in our communities. Can you comment to the proliferation of combat gear into local law enforcement? Do you believe law enforcement constitutes the “community element” of federal Homeland Security?
DB – Having less than six patrol officers can hardly be considered a “standing army.” Obviously, police equipment and uniforms have evolved since the days of the Old West. The apparent “proliferation of combat gear” is actually the modernization of police equipment to keep pace with the more dangerous and well-armed environment in which law enforcement officers must work. Officer safety is paramount and their effectiveness in protecting and serving the public is a close second. Providing them with the proper tools and equipment to do their job is essential and necessary in order to make sure they return home to their families each and every day. In short, what you are seeing is the evolution of today’s modern day police attire and tools to complete the job they are assigned to do…safely, effectively and efficiently.
The Sierra County Sheriff’s Office is not the“community element”of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it is a partner. By way of history, DHS was formed in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as part of a determined national effort to safeguard the United States against terrorism. DHS became the third-largest Federal department, bringing together 22 different Federal agencies, each with a role in this effort to “Strengthen the Security Enterprise” with five homeland security missions1:
· Prevent terrorism and enhance security;
· Secure and manage our borders;
· Enforce and administer our immigration laws;
· Safeguard and secure cyberspace;
· Ensure resilience to disasters;
DHS partners with federal, state, local, tribal and territorial entities to be the backbone of our nation’s domestic defense against terrorist attacks. Local entities, including the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office,provide the eyes and ears on the ground, and the first line of detection and prevention. They are a vital partner in ensuring public safety, in every American community.
DHS provides funding via grants to States to accomplish this mission. Generally the CaliforniaOffice of Emergency Services2 coordinates the process of disseminating these funds. As Sheriff, I would more vigorously pursue opportunities to improve our Department through such grants.They are intended to provide local law enforcement with personnel, training and equipment in order to provide protection to our community homeland–personnel for manpower to detect, prevent, investigate, suppress and prosecute criminal activity;training to ensure things are done according to law and policy and,modern day equipment3 to ensure the safety and security of personnel involved
#2 – Sierra County has a lot of USFS land. In many California Counties the county sheriffs have declined to allow FS law enforcement to have police powers in some instances. In addition, it has been pointed out that local law enforcement often does marijuana eradication on federal land at the cost of county taxpayers. Can you comment on Sheriff Office relations with the Forest Service, and/or the cost to local taxpayers of law enforcement services provided to the FS?
DB – Pursuant to Government Code section 26600, it is the Sheriff’s duty to enforce all California laws within the confines of his/her jurisdiction. This includesUSFS property.
Sierra County as a whole is interspersed with government and private property. It is also a remote mountain community with very limited law enforcement personnel and resources. Working alone in this environment can be dangerous. It is essential we work closely with all our allied agencies to augment our limited personnel and equipment resources. With appropriate policy and procedures, inter-agency agreements, training, and communications in place,such assistance can provide Sierra County residents with low cost law enforcement services that are vitally needed. These additional resources can only help to ensure the safety, security and protection of not only our officers, but our community at large.The relationship with the USFS is but one example of what should be a cohesive collection of resources to augment the needs of the community.That is, USFS has law enforcement resources that should be tapped for the benefit of the people of Sierra County.
Under my administration I would not only ensure a close working relationship with ALL law enforcement partners, but integrate the use of local citizen volunteers for such programs as vehicle abatement, summer home patrols, parking control and code enforcement. With over 52 lakes in the area, I would also like to see the return of the Dive Rescue team and local scouting chapters to augment search and rescue programs.
Yes, Sierra County has a lot of USFS land, and yes, some Sheriffs have elected not to “deputize” USFS law enforcement officers so that they have police powers in their jurisdiction. However,in light of Sierra County’s limited manpower and resources, I believe it is incumbent upon us to utilize all available law enforcement resources.
#3 – Sierra County is a small place; do you think law enforcement in SC is different from law enforcement elsewhere, and if so, how?
DB – Yes, we are different in some respects but we are alike in others.
We are different becauseSierra County is a small,mountain community that depends primarily on tourism. Fortunately,crime is relatively low5, but the nature of criminal activity is often of a type that is unique to a small,rural county such as marijuana cultivation, mining disputes, wild animal control and unreported environmental crimes.
We are the same in terms of requirements for preparation and training that is required. Our officers are held to the same high standards of training, monitored by California Peace OfficerStandards and Training, as each and every other city, county or state jurisdiction. As mentioned earlier, officer safety is paramount to any agency regardless of location. Officers need to be equipped, trained and prepared for any and all types of occurrences, calls for services, and events regardless of who they are, or where they are assigned.
At the present time Sierra County is unique to California in that it does NOT provide residents with 24/7 patrol services. Our officers have little to no immediate backup, and the department is operating under minimal staffing levels. It is also unique in that there is no Sheriff’s Advisory Council,almost no Sheriff’s Department volunteers and/or reserves, little presence in our schools, and no integration of scouting programs.Alternative funding sources are often overlooked or not pursued.
Unfortunately, Sierra County is also unique in the ineffective way it does spend grant funds. One example is the use and application of Anti-Drug Assistance program funds from the Board of State and Community Corrections for aviation training of staff in both fixed and rotor wing when no such program or equipment exists. Such funds would have been more appropriately utilized towards establishing a School Resource Officer, Drug Interdiction,and/or K9program. Other wasteful examples are the failure to use local training resources, rather than incurring the expense of traveling great distance for the same training, and lastly, the painting of patrol vehicles from traditional white to “black and white.”
#4 – What is your position on medical cannabis grows in the county? What is your position on med can dispensaries?
DB – I am informed and aware of the benefits associated with the use of medicinal marijuana, and the relief it provides to those with medical ailments. I support the use of marijuana for these sole purposes. I do not support the illicit sales and trafficking of marijuana for any other purpose. My philosophy is grow what you are legally permitted – in a safe, secure, controlled environment; use what you grow; don’t sell or give it away to others; and, report those who violate laws, regulations and ordinances pertaining to illicit marijuana grows.
Currently, Federal and State governments have created an area of confusion among the general population and law enforcement alike. While the Federal Government considers the sales and trafficking of marijuana to be illegal, the State of California has introduced legislation (Prop. 215) which permits the cultivation of a certain number of plants per person with a “recommendation” provided by a professional in the medical field to be used for medicinal purposes. However, some people have exploited this opportunity and taken advantage of the situation.
Some jurisdictions have developed ordinances which aim to control the proliferation of marijuana grows. However, more often than not, these same jurisdictions are failing to make the necessary budgetary adjustments to existing resources responsible for policing this agricultural phenomenon. If Sierra County adopts such an ordinance, it will be faced with this dichotomy. One cost free resource to assist in the enforcement of law and ordinance is the Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation Team (MAVMIT). This program consists of officers and equipment from a wide variety of local jurisdictions to serve this purpose.
If the term “med can dispensary” refers to a State licensed and regulated pharmacy engaged in the sale of medical cannabis (genus for marijuana), then it should be treated the same as any other business and subject to local control through zoning and permit requirements. If you are referring to an unlicensed, unregulated dispensary strictly for the sales and trafficking of medical cannabis, I don’t believe Sierra County is the place to support and/or conduct such a business. If elected, I will work with the County Board of Supervisors, the District Attorney, local zoning officials, and others to develop an approach that works for our residents.
#5 – The county sheriff issues concealed carry weapons; there is a mandated background check. California doesn’t allow open carry; a recent court decision makes it difficult for sheriffs to withhold a concealed weapon for a person who does not fit into the “prohibited” category (those with domestic violence, some drug felonies, some mental health prohibitions, and so on). What is your position on concealed carry permits for county residents?
DB – I believe in the U.S. Constitution, and the 2nd Amendment Right to Bear Arms. However, citizens who have a documented violent criminal history, including acts of domestic violence, documented drug and alcohol abuse, and/or documented mental health issues have no right to carry a concealed weapon because they are a danger to themselves or others. Otherwise, citizens who have received proper training in the use and handling of a firearm pass a comprehensive background investigation and comply with existing laws, will be eligible for a CCW.
#6 – The jail has been an issue for some time; grand juries have occasionally complained; the Board of Supervisors haven’t had the resources, nor is there much space, to make modifications; the option of housing inmates elsewhere is sometimes necessary but is expensive and creates a hardship for the families of inmates. What do you see as the likely solution to problems with the jail?
DB – If elected, I would request a professional review/audit to determine the justification of such a facility. If Sierra County’s jail facility is out of compliance,and the justification to keep it open is not prudent, then my decision to continue to operate the facility would have to be reviewed.
If alternative resources(e.g.Nevada County) that are more efficient and effective are available,and in compliance with existing statutes, then those resources will also be considered. Again,it would be based upon justification and cost.
I am aware of a number of issues involving the existing jail in Downieville. If the current assessment underway determines this facility is a liability and a risk to the care, custody and control of inmates and the community at large, then the professional recommendations of the evaluator should be highly considered by the Sheriff in conjunction with the Board of Supervisors.
I also believe the Loyalton sub-station should be revisited and considered as a more reasonable housing facility, not only because the bulk of inmates come from this area, but visitation becomes more reasonable, and jobs could be created for the community. If it is determined that there is appropriate justification, seeking federal and/or state funds should be considered in expanding this facility.
If contracting with one of our surrounding counties for inmate housing is more effective and efficient, then I would consider this as a viable alternative. It is my understanding this is the case with Nevada County.
An alternative concept thatI would like to explore and the citizens to consider is the construction of either a state and/or federally funded “RegionalJail Facility” located in the Sierra Valley area that would service both Sierra and Plumas counties, and portions of Nevada and Placer counties on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada range. Such a facility would create job opportunities for the local communities of Sattley, Calpine, Sierraville, Verdi and Loyalton.An added benefit would be the formation of work crews to provide community services and maintenance to our parks, roadways, cemeteries, and other community properties.
#7 – Realignment has increased jail costs in some counties, but other counties seem to be making money taking inmates. How do you think realignment has impacted the county?
DB – Due to the limited number of inmates currently incarcerated, I do not believe realignment will have much impact on Sierra County. If the county is drastically impacted, then alternative funding sources, as identified below, will need to be pursued. On a positive note, such an impact may justify the expansion of jail facilities in the existing Loyalton sub-station or creation of a regional jail facility thus providing opportunities for creating jobs in the local community.
By way of history and education6 I offer the following:
“In 2011, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed Assembly Bill (AB) 109 and AB 117, historic legislation that has helped California to close the revolving door of low-level inmates cycling in and out of state prisons. It is the cornerstone of California’s solution for reducing the number of inmates in the state’s 33 prisons to 137.5 percent of design capacity by June 27, 2013, as ordered by the Three-Judge Court and affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. All provisions of AB 109 and AB 117 are prospective and implementation of the 2011 Realignment Legislation began October 1, 2011.”
The 2011 Realignment is funded with a dedicated portion of state sales tax revenue and Vehicle License Fees (VLF) outlined in trailer bills AB 118 and SB 89.The latter provided revenue to counties for local public safety programs and the former established the Local Revenue Fund for counties to receive the revenues and appropriate funding for 2011 Public Safety Realignment.
Each county was directed to create a Community Corrections Partnership (CCP) to develop and recommend to the county Board of Supervisors a county implementation plan for 2011 Public Safety Realignment. The CCP is also responsible for allocating State funds to the various county and city agencies. An Executive Committee from the CCP members is comprised of the following:
- Chief probation officer
- Chief of police
- District Attorney
- Public Defender
- Presiding judge of the superior court (or his/her designee)
- A representative from either the County Department of Social Services, Mental Health, or Alcohol and Substance Abuse Programs, as appointed by the County Board of Supervisors.
Public Safety Realignment allows non-violent, non-serious, and non sex offenders to serve their sentence in county jails instead of state prisons. However, counties can contract back with the State to house local offenders.
2 Other such state and federal grants available include Alcohol Beverage Control, Anti-Drug Assistance Program, Boating Safety and Enforcement Program, CAL Multi-Jurisdiction Methamphetamine Enforcement, COPS Stop Drugs, DEA, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Marijuana Suppression Program and Off-Highway Vehicle.
3 Communications, officer safety, patrol (vehicle, vessel, etc.), and surveillance are among such equipment items.
4 Pursuant to Penal Code
5 See CalDOJ Crime Stats for 2003-2012
This is a link to the PDF format submitted by Beverly Response to Prospect Questions