The position of Santa Clara County Sheriff is one of the more critical for the Libertarian Party to focus on. The sheriff sets our law-enforcement priorities and the culture of our peace officers with regards to such things as our 2nd rights and chooses how and whether to implement surveillance. While it’s unlikely we will see a Libertarian Sheriff candidate soon, weighing in with our opinions and casting our votes will help set a climate within our county that is more liberty embracing. There are five candidates running for Sheriff: five-term incumbent Sheriff Laurie Smith, John Hirokawa, Joe La Jeunesse, Martin Monica, and Jose Salcido. All five attended a recent forum hosted by the Berryessa Citizens Advisory Council on Monday, May 14th, 2018. The Libertarian Party of Santa Clara County cannot endorse any of the candidates running for Sheriff this year, but as Chair, I can offer my own observations from the recent forum.
The opening statements allowed each candidate to highlight their background and priorities if elected. Hirokawa emphasized his experience in the higher echelons of the current administration and boasted about his many endorsements from democratic-leaning organizations. La Jeunesse brought up his military experience, specifically with Abu Ghraib Blue Ribbon Commission. Monica described being unafraid to arrest an officer and highlighted the need to improve the integrity of the department. Salcido elaborated on his experience with Chuck Reed and need to improve communications. Lastly, Sheriff Smith, in a curious move, boasted about the success of the Sierra LaMar case and cited her current pursuit of her second master’s degree in the field of homeland security.
After opening statements came the first question, which asked what the response time was to unincorporated areas of the county. Five-term incumbent Sheriff Smith did not know. Both Monica and La Jeunesse stressed the priority should be on the prevention of and not reaction to crime. Salcido did not know response times but was familiar with crime-rate statistics, noting that carjackings are up in Santa Clara County despite going down elsewhere. Salcido noted the impending increase in crime and homeless when BART is extended further south but also stressed the need for license plate readers, as the county currently does not own any. Only Hirokawa offered a technical response.
The second question asked how the candidates felt about local governments acting as immigration sanctuaries. Three of the candidates largely agreed: Salcido implied that services must be put into place to allow immigrants to feel safe reporting crimes; Monica echoed this concern, stating the need for there to be more communication between organizations; and Hirokawa reminded us of his involvement in passing SB 54, the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill. Only La Jeunesse took a different view, opposing sanctuary cities, while Sheriff Smith neither agreed or disagreed.
A following question asked how each candidate felt about jails being used as asylums: do they support building additional jail facilities? Should jails be in the business of treating the mentally ill or should they have a dedicated facility? And how would each candidate stop the use of correctional facilities as modern-day asylums? Monica relayed his experience and educational background in social service and mental illness, stressing that there should be a specific facility for the mentally ill to offer them support and to reduce negative influence between the mentally ill and criminals. La Jeunesse, after affirming that it is not a crime to be mentally ill, stated his belief that there should be procedures in place to assess people before they go to jail. Hirokawa spoke of his efforts to create specialized teams to address the mentally ill from within the jail. Salcido discussed the need to implement Laura’s Law here in Santa Clara County, referring to the state law that allows court-ordered psychiatric treatment for people with serious mental illnesses as an alternative to jail, and reminded us that over a million dollars intended for mental-illness assistance have been going unspent.
In response to the above question, Sheriff Smith started to talk about a shortage of beds, but broke off in the middle of her answer when she came to believe that an attendee was recording the forum. Agitated by the presumption, she exclaimed, “Are you recording?! You’re not supposed to do that!” This reaction recalled her reluctance to attend any forums at all earlier in the campaign season and presumably reflects the amount of pressure Sheriff Smith has been under since the death of Michael Tyree in custody at the hands of three guards at the county correctional facility. Smith tried to recover using the remainder of her time to sketch out her idea for a mobile mental health unit before the forum moved on to the next topic.
The candidates were then asked how they would address department staffing compared to other Bay Area counties. Hirokawa said he would pull “rank and file” to listen to the deputies suggestions. Sheriff Smith described having built an array of specialized units and read off a list from her smartphone. Salcido expressed the need to increase municipal communication because “criminals don’t see borders”. Monica suggested speaking directly to the community members, and La Jeunesse stressed the importance of tech and military tactics.
The candidates’ closing statements did well to summarize their overall positions: Monica reminded us that an outside perspective is needed; Salcido reminded us that jails make better criminals rather than better citizens and stated that the culture needs to change; Sheriff Smith reiterated her disagreement with Proposition 47, which reduced non-violent crime from felonies to misdemeanors; Hirokawa reminded us of his endorsements; and La Jeunesse remarked on the need to vote against the status quo.
As Chair of the Libertarian Party of California I will leave you with links to each of their campaign websites, for further research:
John Hirokawa www.johnhirokawa.com/
Martin Monica www.martinmonica.com/
Joe La Jeunesse www.votejoeforsheriff.com/
Jose Salcido www.salcidoforsheriff.com
Laurie Smith www.sherifflauriesmith.com/