Trust In Law Enforcement Key To San Diego County Sheriff’s Race
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Credit: Dave Myers and Bill Gore campaigns
The election on June 5 may be called a primary, but for some races in San Diego County, June is a voter's only opportunity to cast a ballot. That is true in the race for San Diego County Sheriff, who oversees county jails and courts, and acts as a police chief for many of the county's cities and its unincorporated areas.
The candidates in the race are two-term incumbent Bill Gore, a Republican and former FBI official, and Dave Myers, a Democrat and 33-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department. Elections are decided in November only if no candidate receives a majority of the vote.
Gore did not respond to multiple interview requests in time to be included in this story, although he did later agree to talk with KPBS for an interview that will air on Midday Edition on Monday, May 7.
Earlier this year, he released a campaign video that ends with a statement of confidence.
"What I value the most is that we've earned the trust of the people in this community — the trust in my department and me in particular," Gore says in the video. "I feel like I'm the right person for this job, and I hope the people in San Diego County will instill their trust in me for one more term."
Myers offers a different assessment.
"Across this county as I've been campaigning, I've heard over and over and over again about mistrust — especially from our communities of color," he said.
Gore is favored to win re-election, with a lead in fundraising and the support of deep-pocketed unions representing sheriff's deputies and deputy district attorneys. But Myers may get a boost from an expected "blue wave" of Democratic turnout in California's first statewide election of the Trump era.
Gore has also been put on the defensive following several instances of negative media attention. In February, one of his deputies was charged with sexually harassing or assaulting a dozen women while on duty. Some of the women have accused Gore of being slow to arrest the deputy.
Last week a nonprofit issued a report criticizing the sheriff's policies surrounding mentally ill inmates at risk of suicide. Suicides in county jails had previously been called out as a problem in a series of investigations by San Diego CityBeat in 2013 and 2014, and in a county grand jury report last year.
"When the sheriff was told by the grand jury, 'You have the highest rate of inmate suicides of any county jail system in the state of California,' that information was dug up by local reporters," Myers said. "That information was published, he knew about it year after year after year. But in the end what he decided to do instead of fix the problem, be transparent about fixes in the county jail system ... he went after the reporter and the reporter's methodology."
One apparent difference between Myers and Gore lies in their approach to the office itself, and what role the sheriff should play in shaping public policy.
As the County Board of Supervisors was considering whether to support the Trump administration's lawsuit against California over its "sanctuary state" laws, Gore was quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune as saying: "I don't want to be in the position of telling the board what they should or shouldn't do."
Gore took a similar hands-off approach when the board voted last year to ban all sales of medical and recreational cannabis in the unincorporated county. The sheriff's department is now struggling to enforce that ban.
Myers said while the sheriff does not create policy, he has an obligation to inform the discussion with data.
"I see my role as the elected sheriff to advise the policymakers on the facts," Myers said. "I don't think they received an honest evaluation of what it truly means for law enforcement to sit at the table with the industry and create safe access (to cannabis). To me, and based on my experience of 33 years in law enforcement, that is how we create less crime."
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore faces an electoral challenge from within his own ranks: Commander Dave Myers. The two candidates disagree on several issues, and on their approach to the office of sheriff itself.
To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.