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Interview with Sgt. Sandra Brown

Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2014

By: Dave Retz (Expired article)

Santa Maria, CA -

It takes Moxie to run for public office - against your own boss. That's exactly what Deputy Sheriff Sargeant Sandra Brown is doing, running against incumbent Sheriff Bill Brown in the upcoming June election.

Dave Retz, of SYV-Online had the opportunity to interview Sargeant Brown on April 8, 2014 to provide some insight on why she would want to run for office and what she would do differently. She goes by the somewhat "down home" name of "Sargeant Sandra", so this is the term used below in the interview:

SYV-Online: "Sandra, you are diving into what has traditionally been a male-dominated elected office. Do you see any problem with the 'good old boy' network, or being a woman in the position of Sheriff?"

Sgt. Sandra: "Well, there are actually three woman sheriffs in the State of California, and I have been working in the department for seventeen years, and my being a female has never been an issue. In fact, when I decided to run for sheriff, I didn’t even think about the whole female side of it. It's something I've been wanting to do for a long time."

SYV-Online: “What was it that made you decide to run for Sheriff?”

Sgt. Sandra: "Watching a politician do the job, and someone that isn't focused on improving the quality of people’s lives, and not worried about customer service – not challenged by trying to get in front of the problems all the time. We're just not getting in front of them. Ten years ago it wasn’t a thought in my head, but the process of watching the mission and the department decay over the last few years has turned it into a conversation."

SYV-Online: “You mean politics gets in the way of being a public servant?”

Sgt. Sandra: “Everybody’s trying to glad-hand everybody. I’ve gone to ‘meet & greets’ at people’s residences and talked about issues and you can see people just not like what I’m saying. And I always go to them afterwards and say ‘so I can tell you didn’t like what I said.’ And they’ll go ‘yeah, I didn’t like this issue, this issue …’ and I’m like, ‘don’t vote for me’. I’m not someone who’s going to ebb and flow.

“In Santa Ynez you have a big diversity with the Casino, and then you have the people in Santa Ynez Valley that are against the Casino. For me, the fact is that there is an increase in crime in that area, or even a feeling there’s an increase in crime. We know there is a business in that town – the casino – that has a clientele that at times has criminal behavior. They’re under the influence of drugs and alcohol, they’re bringing drugs and alcohol, they’re bringing weapons, they’re bringing their shenanigans with them. So to me, and I’ve told both sides this: it’s embarrassing to me as a deputy sheriff that it’s our responsibility – and those problems are coming into our area, through our areas that we’re responsible for. So what is the administration’s enforcement posture in the Santa Ynez Valley to make sure that we’re decreasing the ability for those types of people to come and continue their criminal behavior?

“We’re not doing anything efficiently. So, when the casino gives us a grant, what is their expectation? They’re expecting that we provide an enforcement posture that decreases crime that is secondary to their business. We’re not doing that. We’re sending them out handling calls for service, which is fine. But you have to have a sheriff that looks at that and realizes that we need to have enforcement. It’s a County area, but we need to augment traffic enforcement with the CHP and make sure we are doing full-bore traffic enforcement of that area. Because, by doing those car stops, you’re running people, you’re finding out who’s on parole and probation, if they have violations of their parole or probation you’re potentially going to be able to search their cars, you’re going to get the guns, the drugs, the alcohol, you’re going to find out if they’re under the influence, and you’re going to take away the problem before it seeps into our community.

“But that’s not happening. That’s not the kind of sheriff I am. I’m not going to the tribe and asking them to endorse me or asking them for money. I’m not going to the people that are against the casino. That’s not my issue. My issue is public safety: how do I best provide that and serve both sides? Instead, we have a sheriff that is very focused on working with the casino, but he’s not doing his job, which is fighting crime.”

SYV-Online: “So we have a problem with ‘outsiders’ increasing the level of crime in our area?”

Sgt. Sandra: “Ok, take away the casino. Let’s say it’s your neighbor, and they’re selling drugs. It’s the sheriff’s responsibility to enforce the rules. At the casino, all the moths are coming to the flame. It’s my responsibility to make it uncomfortable for them to come into our area and do that.”

SYV-Online: “This is reminiscent of Santa Barbara, where people come to Isla Vista to party. One of the comments I read (in the newspaper) is that if they get arrested while they are here they get to spend 90 days in the county jail – or something like that.”

Sgt. Sandra: “What needs to occur is, you have to start taking the people that are coming to visit and make them realize that there is zero tolerance -and that if they push the limits of the law, we will put them in jail, we will issue them citations, we will tow their car; I mean it goes on and on. So you make it uncomfortable for them to do their shenanigans.

“It (Deltopia) is a weird event, it’s not like Halloween. It’s an event that has problems during the daytime, and then they basically take a break, and then they come back for the night time. So you basically have two operation plans.”

SYV-Online: “You have to have a strategy?”

Sgt. Sandra: “It was not in place. So you have to look at alcohol as the main component to (the) problems – you have the people, obviously, but it’s the alcohol. The drugs are a component, but it’s the alcohol that’s the worst. To decrease the alcohol consumption, you have to have full-blown enforcement , proactive enforcement, at the sales establishments. And that is Costco, in Goleta, which is a huge sales place for the kids – they’re buying several liter, gallon jugs of booze – so you need to have enforcement there. You also need it on the business loop of Isla Vista, you need to have enforcement as soon as those businesses open, you have to have officers out there in plain clothes, working undercover. You may have some fake ID’s, you may have a lot of minors that are asking adults to purchase alcohol for them, you may have minors that are driving in their car in possession of alcohol, which is a violation of law. These are all things that can be done to take a proactive stance.”

SYV-Online: “What about the jail overcrowding issue?”

Sgt. Sandra: “It’s just not a safe place. One of the biggest missions I am going to have is changing the environment so we can retain employees.”

SYV-Online: “Is it not a funding problem?”

Sgt. Sandra: “No, we have funded positions; we’re just not able to staff them or retain them, because no one wants to work there. We’ve hired nine employees this year and already lost fifteen. Out of those fifteen employees, nine of them work in the jail. And basically, it’s just unsafe. They don’t want to work there, we have wives worried about whether their husband is going to come home alive. We’ve had stabbings, and numerous beatings and an assault. You have to have the manpower to be able to do your job, and they’re literally just running from one fire to the next.”

SYV-Online: “What about building the new jail in the North County?”

Sgt. Sandra: “There’s a lot of questions in that. It comes down to finances. When it opens it will be immediately be full. One of our big issues is AB 109, the prison realignment. We have a couple hundred inmates from the (state) prison system and dumped into our backyard. They have a 70% recidivism rate, and we’re doing nothing proactive. We’re basically just chasing them. We had an opportunity in 2011 when AB 109 started to actually get in front of the problem and make sure we knew where they were living and make sure we were watching them, and now they’re just in the wind.

“One of the big issues is the gang issue here in Santa Maria, and it’s traveling south, so in 2000-2004 I was working narcotics and I worked the state task force in the North County area, and I really started seeing some large, sophisticated gangs take over the Santa Maria area, that weren’t doing just simple drug sales, low level drug sales – these were people that were taxing businesses, that were called to prostitution, kidnapping, homicides, doing hits on people – these are blue collar type of gangsters – these are not people that are smart about a business decision to do it. We saw this growth ineffective of the sheriff’s department in attacking it, and then it started going to Lompoc, and now it’s in Santa Barbara. Currently, the sheriff has their gang unit, which is two deputies, from Cuyama to Carpinteria, which is ineffective. It’s completely ineffective.

“Everything I’ve done in my career has been proactive. You have to get in front of the problem, you can’t chase it. If we’re smart, we know where the problems are going to be.

“So if you look at gangs. What’s going on with the gang issue with our youth is we’re not being parents anymore that are parenting. The art of parenting is gone. We have kids that don’t know what to do with their free time other than get involved in shenanigans. I plan to do what I call a “Parents Academy”, and plan to hire one civilian employee that’s a child behaviorist that will work with non-profits, bring them onto the island, and we’re going to be teaching County-wide programs on parenting and bring the children along for the ride. We need to set the parents up for success at a young age, and I’m talking about kindergarten – working all the way through junior high. In my generation, we lost kids to the gangs in high school; we’re now seeing this going on at the junior high level.

“So the Parent Academy is something I want to do County-wide. I’ve worked with hundreds of parents, with kids that have overdosed, have died, have been addicted, gone into gangs … and the parents have always said to me ‘I wish I would have known’ (fill in the blank). If government isn’t here to be that ‘blank’, then I don’t know why I’m doing that job I’m doing. We are so rich with non-profits in this community, I have no doubt that they’ll want to come onboard. It benefits them to have the partnership with other non-profits and with government groups – it’s a benefit to everybody.”

SYV-Online: “How would you summarize your issues?”

Sgt. Sandra: “These are quality of life issues in this County. I want a strategic plan for the department, which we don’t have. The current sheriff has never had a strategic plan. I believe the number one thing the deputies have to have in their soul as they go out is customer service. I know, we’re not McDonalds, but we provide a service to the taxpayers, who are paying for us – so there has to be a customer service aspect to it. The men and women of the department need to recognize that every day – they’re representing the sheriff’s department, representing the County of Santa Barbara, representing themselves – and they need to leave people with that impression.

“The second thing is problem solving. We can’t just be the ‘band-aid’ of the County. We have to go out there and think of other resources. For example, we need to provide deputies with resources other than incarceration for homeless people or mentally ill. We are not the de-facto jail cell for mentally ill people. We need to find them other services. It’s calling County drug/mental health to pick them up, making sure they’re taken to a homeless shelter, whatever we’re doing. But putting them in the jail is a cost to taxpayers and it doesn’t do them any good. We need to look at problem-solving skills.

“I want healthy neighborhoods. I’ve never had a bad neighbor, but I know people that have. I believe in community outreach, with a lot of assistance and education before there is any enforcement. I don’t want deputies going out there multiple times, but I also don’t want deputies turning a blind eye to a problem that needs to be solved.”

Sergeant Sandra Brown's website is:

SYV-Online.COM, Published by Comware International Inc.
Santa Ynez Valley

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