Sacramento Sheriff Candidates Clash in Forum – Part 1

by Robert J. Hansen

The first debate between Undersheriff Jim Barnes and Assemblymember Jim Cooper to be the next Sacramento County Sheriff was held by the Sacramento Bee Wednesday night.

The candidates took questions from the Bee’s editorial board for an hour on topics ranging from the consent decree, early release of parolees, homelessness, the Inspector General, and the increased violence in Sacramento.

The responses are edited for clarity. This is the first of two parts to the debate for Sacramento County Sheriff.

Q: The Downtown Jail:  By many measures, it’s been a disaster. It’s out of compliance with a court-ordered consent decree, mental health challenges are not properly treated as prescribed by the consent decree. In the last 18 months, we’ve seen inmates leave the jail only for them to be accused of committing heinous crimes such as the inmate accused of sexually assaulting and killing Mary Kate Tibbits in Land Park. What will you do specifically to bring the jail in compliance with the court order and what will you do to ensure that fewer released inmates commit crimes in the downtown core?

Assemblyman Cooper: Thank you for bringing up Kate Tibbetts. That’s an important issue and a tragic case that never should have happened. I’m writing a bill on Kate Tibbetts so when folks are released that are transient parolees, they have to have ankle bracelet monitoring. I’ve talked to the Downtown Partnership and they are fed up with what’s gone on. Yeah folks are brought in that are arrested from all over the county … we have to ensure they get back where they came from. That’s giving them free rides. The downtown partnership wants to work with that. Once they are released, unless they have a ride home, ensure they get a ride home so they aren’t there to plague downtown. The reason you have a consent decree is that you’re not doing your job. The sheriff’s department has to do a better job of that. Part of that is working with your Board of Supervisors because the fund that whether you build a fourth tower or move it somewhere else you have to have those relationships, and right now the sheriff has lacked those relationships for the last twelve years.

Undersheriff Barnes: We continue to work with the leadership of our correctional health services to find out better ways that we can provide that. There has to be a clear delineation of who provides that service. That is not the Sheriff’s Office, it’s part of the contract Service that we have for medical and mental health. Is it where it should be? It is not.  But I also look back to when AB 109 came and they started offering money to the jail system whenever they started releasing prison inmates to the jail population. I believe this year it’s $47 million that they are going to give the County for funding these long-term inmates. The county jail was for presentence and sentences up to one year. Now we have people sentenced to up to five years in these facilities that weren’t equipped to do so. So for Assemblyman Cooper and the Assembly to not have the foresight to provide additional funding to build and/or improvement to me is neglectful. It’s up to the County to now solve those problems. Mr. Cooper hasn’t taken any position on the homeless until now. You’re talking about putting a parolee who’s homeless on an ankle monitor. How are you going to charge that when you’re homeless? So yes he’s trying to take this initiative now because he’s trying to become Sheriff. I am strong with my relationship with the Downtown Partnership working on early releases and working with County Probation and the Public Defender’s Office on how we identify those times of release. For Mr. Cooper to say it’s fair leadership he doesn’t understand the relationships that I have. But when he talks about leadership, there’s documentation that says there were increased suicides while he was a commander of the jail. I get it, the conditions inside the jail are tough. And we were working for an expansion where people thought it was for increased officers, it was not, it was increased medical care and increased psychiatric care. I’m a huge supporter of that.

Q: Concealed Carry Permits: California gives authority to Sheriffs to approve Concealed Carry Permits and Scott Jones, the current Sheriff, has approved thousands, far more than his predecessors and a lot of other law enforcement leaders around the state. Has this added to a dangerous proliferation of firearms, and as Sheriff would you be stricter in approving Concealed Carry Permits?

Undersheriff Barnes: I am a supporter of the CCW program. We have a very strict vetting process and a lot of the incidents you are seeing or not being committed by CCW holders. But our community wants to feel safe and what we see in our region now, they don’t feel safe.  I would continue issuing those. To say that I wish you the same number that the current Sheriff has I can’t say.

Assemblymember Cooper: I’ve supported CCWs since 2010. In looking at the number of incidents, it’s just not there. The permit holders are very responsible gun owners.

Q: Sheriff Scott Jones locked out Inspector General Scott Brazil of the jail and was angry at him for questioning whether deputies needed to fatally shoot a fleeing suspect.  Do you agree with how Jones handled that situation and as Sheriff would you be supportive of the Inspector General or a citizens review committee reviewing fatal shootings?

Undersheriff Barnes: I do not agree with that. I like to deal with issues like that behind closed doors if we’re having disagreements.  I don’t know what the decision-making process was for my current sheriff but decisions have ripple effects. If we get the Inspector General who’s retiring in place … I know we are establishing, there won’t be a need for it. But the transparency will be there and those relationships will remain strong.

Assemblymember Cooper: With Inspector General, I support it 100 percent. They’re trying to make the department better, it’s just a second set of eyes. It’s frustrating to have things like this … the rhetoric that Scott has put out has frayed all the relationships. Locking somebody out, that’s throwing a temper tantrum, and at the end of the day, who does it benefit?  The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department has had more officers killed in the line of duty than anybody else, why is that? Because they don’t want to go back and look at things and see how we can do things better. That’s an issue and it’s got to be fixed.

Q: In the case of Mikel McIntyre, what would you have done if someone was questioning if your officers were correct in fatally shooting someone?

Assemblymember Cooper: The public wants to see the less-lethal force and as your Sheriff, I’m going to have more of that. It’s tough out there but there’s training for that. Doing reviews of what happened and seeing what we could do better.

Q:  Was it a bad shoot?

Assemblymember Cooper: I’m not going to say that. All I know is what I’ve seen in the paper. I have not had a chance to review the report.

Undersheriff Barnes: Where did they draw that opinion from and what fact patterns are they using and are they using all relevant information? We no longer carry lethal shotguns. We carry tasers, we carry OC. But we can look at how we can develop better practices moving forward. We’re going to have to move towards a different way of doing things. Barnes said the fatal shooting of Mikel McIntrye wasn’t a bad shoot.

About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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