Three San Diego Sheriff Candidates Talk Their Top Priorities Ahead of June Primary – NBC 7 San Diego
The San Diego County Sheriff is responsible for county courts, jails, 4,600 employees, a billion dollar budget and public safety for nearly one million residents.
Challenges the next sheriff will face include community trust, hiring, and jail security.
David Myers is a retired sheriff commander with over 30 years of experience. His top priority is building trust within the community.
“I joined law enforcement to help people, to make a difference; to create an environment where law enforcement is trusted, accountable and where people are not afraid to call for help,” Myers said.
Acting Sheriff Kelly Martinez has worked in the department for 37 years and is currently an undersheriff. If she wins, she will be the first woman to lead the department. It is endorsed by San Diego’s most prominent politicians and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association. His priority is hiring.
“We are severely understaffed in our department — like most law enforcement in the country — and on top of that, we need nurses,” Martinez said. “We need people to work in our prisons for the safety and care of the people in our custody, and then in the prisons themselves we need to make them safer.”
John Hemerling — a former San Diego Navy and police officer — is now the chief prosecutor for the San Diego City Attorney’s Office. Its top priority is to create safer prisons. He thinks his experience in managing prisons in Iraq makes him the best candidate.
“My intention is to set a higher standard,” Hemmerling said. “We currently have assistants who are there, who work long hours, who work overtime because there is a shortage of staff and they are asked to do jobs that are really outside their skills. “
This year, a scathing report by the California State Auditor said the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department failed to prevent deaths in prison due to inadequate security checks and medical care and timely mental health.
“Hopefully we can get this situation under control and prevent deaths in prison,” Martinez said.
To improve transparency, a recent memorandum was signed by each local law enforcement official to ensure that no agency is investigating their own use of force. Myers calls the move a charade.
“The release of heavily edited body camera footage in response to a major use of force — primarily a shooting incident — is not transparency, nor accountability. It doesn’t matter who is investigating it,” Myers said. .
On ghost guns, Myers said the same process of buying a working firearm in California should be applied to buying parts that should also be serialized.
Martinez thinks the department should focus on criminals.
“I don’t know if we can get them off the streets and what we really need to do is focus on the criminals who are using them,” Martinez said. “Keeping guns away from criminals is what’s important, whether it’s a ghost gun or a serialized gun.”
With a recent increase in violence – some carried out using ghost weapons – safety is a major concern for Hemmerling who said an under-policed community is just as bad as an over-policed community.
“We need to move away from that a little bit, just focusing on social justice and going back to criminal justice and really focusing on how it affects our community, because I think victims are being left behind,” Hemmerling said.
Lately, the department has lost more officers than it could hire. Part of the concern – Martinez said – is that officers feel demoralized.
“We’ve been through a pandemic in a few years and civil unrest and a lot of people kind of going after law enforcement, so to speak, and it’s been frustrating for the people who do this work,” Martinez said. “That has changed, we get a lot more support for our MPs and a lot more support for law enforcement in our country, which I’m really grateful for.”
All three candidates have weighed in on the Rebecca Zahau cases. In 2011, she was found hanged in a Coronado mansion. His death was ruled a suicide in two separate sheriffs’ inquests. But a civil action found her boyfriend’s brother responsible for her death.
The Zahau family requested that the case be reconsidered. Myers and Hemmerling are ready to reopen the case. Martinez is open to investigation by an outside agency.
NBC 7 asked the candidates, “If you weren’t running, which of your opponents would you rather see in the job?”
All three contestants said they don’t see anyone else in the role.
In this race, even if a candidate gets 50% plus 1 vote, the first two voters still have to face each other in the November election.
In addition, on the ballot paper are Charles Battle, John Gunderson, Juan Carlos Mercado and Jonathan Peck.
The primary election will take place on June 7.