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Sheriff Gore Defends Response To Jail Suicides, Deputy Sexual Harassment Claims

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore is shown talking with visitors at the County Administration building in downtown San Diego on Jan. 5, 2015.
Angela Carone
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore is shown talking with visitors at the County Administration building in downtown San Diego on Jan. 5, 2015.
Sheriff Gore Defends Response To Jail Suicides, Deputy Sexual Harassment Claims
Sheriff Gore Defends Response To Jail Suicides, Deputy Sexual Harassment Claims GUEST: Sheriff Bill Gore, San Diego County

>>> The race for sheriff is the other election that voters countywide will be deciding. Bill Gore is running from a third term in San Diego County sheriff. He spoke with KPBS producer Michael Lipkin. >> Reporter: Why are you running for reelection? >> I couldn't be more proud of the San Diego County sheriffs department. They have done wonderful work. There is still work to be done. I think I am the one to leave that department for the next four years. Some unfinished business. We've done amazing things in our jails, and on the criminal side. But there is unfinished business. >> Reporter: What are some of the issues ? >> The corrections part of this. We went through criminal justice realignment here in 2012. Shifting 40,000 inmates from state prisons to county jails. We knew when we started we would have to lower the reserve of -- recidivism rate. Our recidivism rate for the last three years has been 36%. Mental health. A challenge. Not only in our jails, but in our communities. Look at our homeless issue, around San Diego County. Mental illness, substance abuse, these are all of issue for homeless issue in a gigantic problem in our jails. >> Reporter: Talk about our jails and mental health. There was an investigation by disability rights California. They said the San Diego jails continue to have a quote suicide crisis. They said the county lacks an effective communication system between deputies and mental health staff about an inmate situation. When he discovered there was a breakdown of this communication, how were deputies dealt with? >> List look at the underlying issue with the crisis. They look at appeared a time of 2014/2015. We have been working tirelessly for the last six or seven years since we took over this large responsibility to continually improve the mental health care in our facilities for every one of our deputies have been to psychiatric emergency response training, we have increased our enhanced observation modules in our facilities, we have doubled the number of mental health clinicians in our facilities, we have contacted with liberty healthcare a nationally recognized healthcare system in the United States to provide healthcare in our jails. It is a continuing challenge. I think we are rising to the challenge in our facilities. >> Reporter: Let's talk about the changes. When you are find an instance in which a deputy may not have communicated effectively the status of a particular inmate, and you found after the fact it was a breakdown. What is the process like? >> If there was inappropriate conduct or misconduct by the deputy we will do an investigation and take disciplinary measures if that is appropriate. Every one of those cases are investigated. It is an ongoing process. We have in the sheriffs department a division of inspection service is that looks that every critical incident, jail deaths for example, suicides. When you look at the period of time that the disability rights people look at and Wendy that there articles and the grand jury, it was a period of 2014/2015. Has been dramatic improvement in our jails and we have really improved. >>> Was a settlement reached on May 1 between into sexual misconduct cases between two men men women and Richard Fisher who was charged in February at the 14 women accused him. He is on paid leave termination proceedings what I understand is ongoing. Have those cases led to changes in your department in terms of how you handle accusations against the deputy? >> I think it's important how we look at how we handled that particular investigation. We were accused of slow walking this investigation. Nothing can be further from the truth. In the case of Deputy Fisher, when the second allegation came in he was removed from the field. To our first I make sure nobody else is victimized. He was on administrative assignment. Shortly after more victims came forward, we put him on administrative leave out of the office. I assigned to sexual assault detectives send to internal affairs detectives to work that investigation. We were in conjunction with the district attorney investigators and I think when you look at the results, we took care of business. >> Reporter: List talk about crime rates for a moment. >> I would love to, thank you.

On June 5, San Diego County voters will decide who will lead the region's top law enforcement agency.

The candidates in the race for San Diego County Sheriff include two-term incumbent Bill Gore, a Republican whose law enforcement career spans more than 40 years and San Diego County Sheriff Commander Dave Myers, a Democrat and 33-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department.

Gore's re-election bid comes amid controversy over the department's response to suicides in San Diego jails. A recent report criticized the department for not doing enough to prevent suicides and failing to provide proper mental health treatment.

"We've been working tirelessly for the last six or seven years ... to continually improve the mental health care in our facilities. It's a continuing challenge, but I think we're rising to our challenge in our facilities," Gore said.

The department also faced criticism over its handling of a sexual misconduct case involving one of its own deputies. Deputy Richard Fisher was charged in February with 14 crimes related to sexual misconduct allegations. Some of Fisher's accusers said Gore was slow to make an arrest.

RELATED: Trust In Law Enforcement Key To San Diego County Sheriff’s Race

Earlier in the campaign, Myers accused Gore of retaliating against him for challenging Gore in the race for Sheriff.

Gore discusses his re-election bid and reacts to the recent controversies Monday on Midday Edition.