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Dave Myers Discusses His Run For San Diego County Sheriff

Sheriff Candidate Dave Myers in his home, Nov. 29, 2017.
Kris Arciaga
Sheriff Candidate Dave Myers in his home, Nov. 29, 2017.
Dave Myers Discusses His Run For San Diego County Sheriff
>Dave Myers Discusses His Run For San Diego County Sheriff GUEST: Dave Myers, commander, San Diego County Sheriff's Department

Our top story, commander Dave Myers with the San Diego Sheriff's Department is running to unseat Sheriff Bill Gore. The sheriff's race is nonpartisan but Dave Myers is a registered Democrat. He spoke with us for this candidate interview. >>Reporter: Dave Myers, you are a 33 year veteran . Why did you decide to run for the sheriff? >> It was after 33 years, and it was a decision that came to me slowly. I'm at the commander level. I spent my entire career in the sheriff's department, worked my way up from Deputy through sift -- six different ranks. I have been sitting at the management table and have seen how resources are allocated and decisions are made, how policies are developed. -- Or not. Probably about a year and a half ago, two years ago, it came to me that we had drifted away from our core mission in law enforcement. It became more and more politicized within the San Diego Sheriff's Department. Although I tried to make changes within in a paramilitary organization, I think what struck me the most was the resistance from my peers. -- Or the change. And lack of support from the top. I would come home, play to my partner about the lack of change at the department, the lack of respect within the agency, and he said well, you have a decision. Run for the office yourself or retire. That is when I decided to run for Sheriff. >>Reporter: How was your experience in the department over those 33 years prepared you? >> I started as a deputy sheriff. I worked in the jails. I worked in the field. I worked in the communities. I have implemented community-based policing. I was an investigator and I started promoting and did the same thing as a sergeant and a lieutenant working in our communication center, working in our back country. I understand what it means to develop a program working with federal authorities to work along international borders. And be successful at it. Reducing crime, but not building walls. I was promoted to captain and took over Vero Beach station. I was promoted to commander. I have overseen a budget of between 100 and $200 million and upwards of 4 to 500 deputy sheriffs. I have developed through collaborative efforts strategies not only internally in the sheriff's department but externally with partners within the County of San Diego law enforcement and community-based organizations, but also across the United States and the Southwest border when it came to working in an environment in which you don't enforce immigration. We also go after those criminal elements that exploit our proximity to an international border. >>Reporter: The Board of Supervisors voted to support Trump -- the lawsuit against various sanctuary state laws in California. The sheriff said they should stay out of it and later brought that back. What do you see as the sheriff's role in providing advice to the policymakers? >> Exactly that. He has an obligation, especially when it came to SP 54 which was all about law enforcement, which was all about the collaborative efforts between the federal law enforcement agency and the local. They have concurrent jurisdiction along international borders. It is the sheriff's role to advise policymakers on what actually is occurring and what is occurring is what I have seen and started back in 2008 where I created a program called operation stone guard and border suppression team which is the national model for how local law enforcement agencies work along international borders with federal law enforcement agencies. It does not include immigration enforcement. It has nothing to do with immigration enforcement. It has everything to do with enforcing state laws against those who would exploit the region along the border. The sheriff has an obligation to tell policymakers facts about what is actually occurring along the international border, like I have. >>Reporter: What would you say to the average voter who says, I feel safe in my community, the sheriff must be doing a good job. Why should we replace him? >> Interesting. Regional crime stats were released and he is responsible for what happens in the jails. He is responsible for what happens and Sheriff's jurisdictions. Highways, Santee, Vista, just today -- released year-over-year double digit increases in property crimes, double digit increases in elder abuse crimes and Sheriff's jurisdictions. Let's talk about that talk about those increases in the jurisdictions he is responsible for. >>Reporter: You have accused the sheriff every telly -- retaliating against you for this candidacy. Remind us what you feel that retaliation is? >> Is a Sheriff's commander, like all others, and there are eight of us to go to all internal meetings, Senate review meetings, all commanders have an area of responsibility and mine was court services Bureau. It was $100 million budget, two or 300 sheriffs, and soon after I told him I was running against him, I was ordered not to go to any of these meetings. I was ordered not to go to any of the hundreds of Sheriff's Department facilities route the County of San Diego. I was removed my chain of command, all commanders have offices on the top floor headquarters. My office is literally on a lower floor, you have to walk through an evidence room, into a room used to be a closet. That is now my office. I am in charge of now myself, and am now told that I'm giving special -- given special projects for my special skills. Assuming that is correct, why move my office? Clearly it is retaliation. He has said so himself. He has said so during a UT editorial interview when he said he would fire me. It would've looked bad for him. >>Reporter: What is your stance on the release of police body camera videos? >> So far he can claims they are fully deployed in the sheriff's office. That is completely false. I would fully deploy the entire department. Once deployed, I have no problem with publicizing within a 24-hour period the video. I'm not going to publish interviews with domestic violence victims, child abuse victims, there are some very protective and sensitive investigations where the video will not be downloaded or made available to the public. But there is so much of what we do that I think to continue to build trust, we have to, through a transparent process which is the body camera video, download and publicize it, and let the public see it. >>Reporter: Why should voters pick you over the current sheriff? >> There has to be a cultural shift and has to start now. It has to start with building that trust back up. We are seeing increasing cases within our jail system where loved ones are dying for no reason. Whether they are suicides or recent case which was just publicized with the only way to control an individual in a controlled situation was -- the person. It smothered the person to death. That is not who we are. We are seeing a triple digit increase in hate crimes around San Diego County but we are not talking about it. We are not speaking of the culture within law enforcement that I got into many years ago that I absolutely love because I see the benefit of what it brings to a community to make them feel safe and secure, but somehow we got away from that. We got away from -- we are seen as the invaders now. We are not seen as community partners. If we don't stop that process now, if we don't continue to be open and transparent, and not hide behind certain laws that say we can't tell you what we are doing, we can show you what we are doing, then it will take generations to change that fact. >>Reporter: Dave Myers, thank you talking with us.

Dave Myers, a commander and 33 year veteran of the San Diego Sheriff's Department said there needs to be a cultural shift in law enforcement and it needs to start now.

That's why he said he is challenging incumbent Sheriff Bill Gore in the June election. Gore has held the seat since 2009.

Myers' experience in the department includes managing the courts division, running the department's Imperial Beach substation and leading a unit dedicated to border-related crimes.

Shortly after he annouced his run for office, Myers spoke out about how he felt he was being targeted for running against Gore.

KPBS reached out to Sheriff Bill Gore's campaign repeatedly for an interview. Gore's campaign has stopped responding to our requests. The invitation for an interview still stands.

Dave Myers Discusses His Run For San Diego County Sheriff

Q: Dave Myers, you are a 33-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, why did you decide to run for the sheriff?

A: So it was after 33 years, it was a decision that came to me kind of slowly. Right now I’m at the commander level. I’ve spent my entire career in the sheriff’s department. Worked my way up from deputy through six different ranks. And, I have been sitting at the management table and have seen how resources are allocated, how decisions are made, how policies are developed or not. Probably about a year and a half ago, two years ago now, it came to me that we had drifted away from what our core mission was as law enforcement. It became more and more politicized within the San Diego Sheriff’s Department and although I tried to make changes within, in a paramilitary organization, I think what struck me the most was the resistance from my peers for the change. And the lack of support from the top. I would come home, I would complain to my partner about the lack of change at the department, the lack of respect within the agency and he finally said, ‘well, you have a decision, either run for the office yourself or retire.’ And so that’s when I decided to run for sheriff.

Q: So, how has your experience in the department over those 33 years prepared you for this job?

A: So, I started as a deputy sheriff. I’ve worked in the jails. I’ve worked in the field. I’ve worked in the communities. I’ve implemented community-based policing. I was an investigator and then I started promoting. I did the same thing as a sergeant. I did the same thing as a lieutenant, working in our communications center, working in our backcountry, understanding what it means to develop a program working with federal authorities to work along an international border and be successful at it. Reducing crime but not building walls. I then was promoted to captain and took over Imperial Beach station and our central investigations division where I was promoted to commander. I’ve overseen a budget of between $100 and $200 million dollars in upwards of 400 to 500 deputy sheriffs. I’ve developed through collaborative efforts strategies not only internally within the sheriff’s department but also externally within not only partners within the County of San Diego law enforcement and community based organizations but also across the United States and the southwest border when it came to working in an environment in which we don't enforce immigration but we also go after those criminal elements that would exploit our proximity to an international border.

Q: The San Diego County Board of Supervisors recently voted to support the Trump administration lawsuit against some various sanctuary state laws in California and the sheriff initially said they should stay out of it, he later walked that back. What do you see as the sheriff’s role in providing advice to the policy makers?

A: Exactly that, the sheriff has an obligation, especially when it came to SB 54 which was all about law enforcement, which was all about the collaborative efforts between a federal law enforcement agency and a local law enforcement agency that have concurrent jurisdiction along an international border. It is the sheriff’s role to advise policymakers on what actually is occurring and what actually is occuring is what I have seen and started back in 2008 where I created a program called Operation Stone Garden and Border Crime Suppression Team which is now the national model for how local law enforcement agencies work along a international border with federal law enforcement agencies and it doesn't include immigration enforcement. It has nothing to do with immigration enforcement. It has everything to do with enforcing state laws against those who would exploit a region along the border. The sheriff has an obligation to tell policy makers facts about what is actually occuring along an international border, like I have.

Q: What would you say to the average voter in the county who says ‘you know, I feel pretty safe in my community, the sheriff must be doing a pretty good job, why should we replace him with a new person?’”

A: Interesting. Today, SANDAG released regional crime stats. Not only a 30 year look but a year over year look. He is responsible for what happens in the jails. He is responsible for what happens in sheriff jurisdictions: Poway, Santee, Vista. Just today, SANDAG released year over year double-digit increases in property crimes, double-digit increases in elder abuse crimes in sheriff’s jurisdictions. Let's talk about that, lets talk about those increases in the jurisdictions he’s responsible for.

Q: You have accused the Sheriff Bill Gore of retaliating against you for this candidacy. Just run through and remind us, what exactly you feel that retaliation is?

A: So, as a sheriff’s commander, I am like all other sheriff’s commanders and there’s 8 of us, are responsible to go to all internal department policy meetings, budget meetings, critical incident review meetings. All commanders have an area of responsibility. Mine used to be the Court Services Bureau. $100 million budget, 200 or 300 deputy sheriffs and soon after I told him I was running against him, I was ordered not to go to any of these meetings. I was ordered not to go to any of the hundreds of sheriff’s department facilities throughout the County of San Diego. I was removed from my chain of command. All commanders have offices on the top floor of headquarters, my office was literally moved to a lower floor. You have to walk through an evidence room into a room that used to be a closet. That’s now my office. I’m in charge of now myself and I’m now told that I am given special projects because I have special skills. Well even assuming that’s correct, why move my office? Clearly its retaliation. Not only is it clear retaliation, he has said so himself. He has said so during a U-T editorial interview when he said he was going to fire me but it would have looked bad for him.

Q: What’s your stance on the release of police body camera video?

A: So far, right now, the sheriff claims body worn cameras are fully deployed in the sheriff’s office. It’s completely false.I would fully deploy the entire department and then once deployed, I have absolutely no problem with publicising within a 24-hour period the video. I’m not going to publish interviews with domestic violence victims, child abuse victims. There are some very protective and sensitive investigations where the video won’t be downloaded nor made available to the public. But there is so much of what we do that I think to continue to build trust that we have to through a transparent process which is the body worn camera video. Download it, publicize it, let the public see it.

Q: Why should voters pick you over the current sheriff, Bill Gore?

A: There has to be a cultural shift in law enforcement and it has to start now. It has to start with building that trust back up. We’re seeing increasing cases within our jail system where loved ones are dying for no reason. Whether they are suicides or a recent case that just publicized, where the only way to control an individual in a very controlled situation was to (unintelligible) and essentially had smothered the person to death. That’s not who we are. Hate crimes. We are seeing a triple-digit increase in hate crimes around San Diego County but we are not talking about it. We’re not talking about a culture within law enforcement that I got in many, many years ago that I absolutely love because I see the benefit of what it brings to a community to make them feel safe and secure. But somehow we got away from that. We got away from that, we’re seen as the invaders now. We’re not seen as community partners and if we don’t stop that process now, if we don’t continue to be open and transparent, not hide behind certain laws that says we can’t tell you what we're doing, we can't show you what were doing, then it's going to take generations to change that back.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.