Bill Gore to step down as San Diego Sheriff
Speaker 1: (00:00)
In a surprise move. San Diego county, sheriff bill gore announced that he will not serve out the remainder of his term and will instead retire effective. February 3rd, the decision comes at a turbulent time for the county Sheriff's office, which in recent years has had numerous in custody deaths and COVID outbreaks in detention facilities. Joining us now to debrief on the outgoing Sheriff's tenure is Kelly Davis, a San Diego writer. Who's been covering the county jails. Kelly. Welcome.
Speaker 2: (00:29)
Hi Jade. Thanks. So
Speaker 1: (00:31)
Gore had already announced his retirement last year. A term that would've effectively ended in January of next year. Do we have any sense of why he didn't see out the right of his?
Speaker 2: (00:42)
No, not really. I, in, you know, he issued a, a statement announcing his retirement and he didn't really give any specific reason for leaving. He did mention though that his retirement will allow him to spend more time with his wife. He talked about how she's made many sacrifices for his job. So I don't know if we read between the lines and say that his wife said, honey, you know, it's it's time for us to spend a retirement together, but we don't have any one specific reason. Do we
Speaker 1: (01:09)
Know who's going to replace him?
Speaker 2: (01:11)
So the county board of supervisors will need to appoint someone and they'll do this in March. They've said so gore initially became sheriff because former bill Hollander had announced his retirement in April, 2009. And gore was under sheriff at that point. So the board of supervisors figured we'll just appoint this guy to be sheriff. And then when gore ran for sheriff in 2010, he, he won easily. So Kelly Martinez, who is currently Gore's under, and there was speculation that she would be appointed sheriff and then kind of ease her way, you know, easily be elected in, in 2022, she said she will not seek the appointment from the board of supervisors to be in a room sheriff. Um, and Nathan Fletcher, who's the chair of the board of supervisors. He said he would not support Nam and her pointing her interim sheriff, he said he would not support anyone. Who's gonna be on the 2022 ballot being interim sheriff, cuz he feels that gives the candidate an unfair advantage. So the short answer to your question is we're not sure yet who will serve mobi sheriff for the remainder of Gore's term, but we'll probably start hearing some speculation. Soon since that appointment will be made in March by the board of supervisors.
Speaker 1: (02:27)
So who are the candidates then expected to run in next year's election?
Speaker 2: (02:32)
So there's Kelly Martinez. She's currently the undersheriff. She recently switched her party to Democrat and has received endorsements from a lot of big name Democrats around the county. Dave, my, he is a retired Sheriff's commander. He challenged go 2018. Uh, he was unsuccessful, but did come in as a good showing against an incumbent sheriff. Then John, he he's a former police officer and he currently heads up the city of San Diego's city, attorney's offices, criminal division. So, so far there are three people vine to be the next San Diego county sheriff, can you give
Speaker 1: (03:14)
Us a brief overview of Gore's tenure as sheriff of San Diego county?
Speaker 2: (03:18)
So as I mentioned, he was appointed sheriff in 2009, elected in 2010. He is a former FBI field officer in San Diego. And I think the first few, several years of his tenure were pretty incident free. You know, he's been credited with doing a good job handling public safety realignment, which is a state law that shifted the responsibility for some offenders from prisons to jails. Um, so he's gotten a lot of praise for, for handling that well, but lately there have been this state of scandals. One of his captains, Marco Garmo was sent to prison for illegal gun sales. His former deputy Richard has pleaded guilty to assaulting at least 16 women. And the first charges ever brought against a law enforcement officer in San Diego county in a shooting case was against Gore's deputy Aaron Johnson who shot a man named Nicholas bills. Nicholas had a mental illness was kind of having a, a breakdown. Aaron Johnson shot Nicholas in the back as Nicholas was, was running away. And then there were the issues with the jails I've been writing about them since 2013 and things just have not gotten better. And in 2021, San Diego jails saw the most deaths ever, despite having a smaller jail population due to COVID. And there have been a string of loss suits over these deaths and millions of dollars in legal settlements. Um, and there's also a state audit. That's gonna be coming out soon, looking at deaths in San Diego county jails.
Speaker 1: (04:51)
Do you think these incidents are going to impact Gore's legacy
Speaker 2: (04:55)
As sheriff? You know, I think a lot of people give gore credit for being very law and order folks who aren't in media and who aren't criminal justice reformers might not be following this stuff. Many voters members of the public don't really care much about inmate deaths or COVID outbreaks in jails. And Gore's very mild mannered. You know, you don't see him out there drawing attention to himself. So, you know, he's very low key. And you know, I think that the public has a short memory, but like I said, there are some high profile investigations and lawsuits against the Sheriff's department coming up and that state audit is coming up. There's a class action lawsuit by the a C L U over conditions in jails during COVID. But that's my long way of saying, ask me in 10 years and you know, we'll see where things stand. So,
Speaker 1: (05:44)
You know, you mentioned a number of scandals. Some have speculated that Gore's early retirement comes at a time where public trust in the department is low. Is there any truths to that?
Speaker 2: (05:55)
I think what I'm hearing more is that it's not necessarily public low public trust, but department morale is very low. It's very low among sworn staff. It's very low among jail staff, including jail medical staff who are also working just these crazy overtime hours. So I think a lot of people are looking for new, fresh leadership. They want change, but what that change will look like and what that new leader will look like, it, it really depends on who you're talking to.
Speaker 1: (06:24)
I've been speaking with Kelly Davis, a San Diego writer who covers San Diego county jails. Kelly, thank you so much for joining us.
Speaker 2: (06:31)
Oh, thank you. I appreciate it.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore on Wednesday announced that he plans to retire Feb. 3, with nearly a year left on his term.
Gore, 74, announced last July that he would not seek reelection for his fourth term. His term ends January 2023.
Gore was appointed sheriff by the Board of Supervisors in 2009 after Sheriff Bill Kolender’s retirement. He was elected in 2010 and reelected in 2014 and 2018.
“Serving as your Sheriff for the last 12 years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my law enforcement career,” Gore said in a statement. “I will always be grateful to the residents of this county for their continued confidence and support during my tenure.”
Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Nathan Fletcher said he’d call a special meeting in March to appoint an interim Sheriff. That individual, however, would not be one of the candidates running in the election for Sheriff.
“The voters are poised to make a very consequential decision on who they want to be our next Sheriff, and it would be inappropriate for us to put our thumb on the scale this close to the election by appointing a person who is a candidate for Sheriff,” said Fletcher in a statement.
Undersheriff Kelly Martinez, who plans to run for the position, also expressed support for not appointing a candidate to interim Sheriff.
“The people of San Diego deserve a fair race for Sheriff as well as an appointment process they can trust,” Martinez said. “I’ll work hard to earn the support of San Diego County voters who want a Sheriff with experience and commitment to public safety.”
Martinez said she didn’t want the public to think of her becoming sheriff as “illegitimate” and wanted the public to decide who would be right for the position.
“The position should be filled justly through a public vote,” she said.
Dave Myers, who ran against Gore in 2018, attacked Gore’s leadership during his tenure following the announcement. He called into question the sheriff’s record in dealing with in-custody deaths, the Rebecca Zahau investigation and the mismanagement of the crime lab.
“The Sheriff’s Department is failing to live up to its basic responsibilities as a public safety organization that we can trust and respect,” Meyers said in a statement to KPBS.
Before joining the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Gore spent 33 years with the FBI, where he rose to the level of assistant director and served as special agent in charge of its San Diego and Seattle field divisions.