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San Diego County Sheriff’s retirement comes at turbulent time for department

 January 21, 2022 at 2:22 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:00)

As sheriff bill go retires a look at what's next.

Speaker 2: (00:04)

A lot of people are looking for change, but what that new leader will look like, depends on who you're talking to.

Speaker 1: (00:10)

I'm Jade Henman. This is KPBS midday edition. The backlog for VA disability benefits continues

Speaker 3: (00:28)

As of the beginning of the year. The VA said it had a total of more than 260,000 claims that had been pending longer than 125 days

Speaker 1: (00:36)

And local art to check out in our weekend preview that's ahead on midday edition 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: (01:30)

Hi Jade. Thanks. So

Speaker 1: (01:32)

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 rest of his term? No,

Speaker 2: (01:43)

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 you read between the lines and say that his wife's 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.

Speaker 1: (02:10)

Do we know who's going to replace him? So

Speaker 2: (02:13)

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 sheriff bill Holland 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 sheriff and there 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 nominating 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 mobi 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. So who are

Speaker 1: (03:29)

The candidates then expected to run in next year's election?

Speaker 2: (03:32)

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 Myers. 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 Hemer, 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,

Speaker 1: (04:14)

Can you give us a brief overview of Gore's tenure as sheriff of San Diego county?

Speaker 2: (04:19)

So as I mentioned you, 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 respond 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 Fisher 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 lawsuits over the, 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. Do

Speaker 1: (05:52)

You think these incidents are going to impact Gore's legacy as

Speaker 2: (05:56)

Sheriff? You know, I think a lot of people give gore credit for being very law and order folks who aren't in the 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 himself. So, you know, he's very low key. And you know, I think

Speaker 1: (06:21)

That the public has a short memory, but like I said, there is some high profile investigations and lawsuits against the Sheriff's department coming up and that state audit is coming up. There is 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, you know, you mentioned a number of scandals. Some have speculated that Gores early retirement comes at a time where public trust in the department is low. Is there any truths to that? I

Speaker 2: (06:56)

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: (07:25)

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. Oh

Speaker 2: (07:32)

Thank you. I appreciate it.

Speaker 1: (07:38)

Suffering from certain medical conditions became eligible for presumptive VA disability benefits last year, but the claims they're filing have added to the agency's huge backlog, American home friends. Carson frame has the story

Speaker 3: (07:53)

Decades after he deployed to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand in the late sixties are me veteran Jim Scott developed urinary symptoms that bothered him enough to go to the doctor.

Speaker 4: (08:03)

He asked for a urine sample and he came back in the room and he says, guess what, Jim? He says, you got some urine in your blood. Cause the little valve was full blood instead of urine. It

Speaker 3: (08:15)

Was bladder cancer more than 20 tumors. One the size of an orange that would work require surgery and chemo. Scott thought, agent orange and herbicide used by the us government in Vietnam was to blame. So he filed a claim with the department of veterans affairs, which said he didn't have enough proof that his military service caused his illness after his cancer was treated. Scott lobbied Congress to recognize the link between bladder cancer and agent orange so that vet could get VA disability benefits without specific proof. It finally happened last year.

Speaker 4: (08:45)

I was ecstatic. It was like, are you kidding me? They finally, you know, breaking news VA expands benefits for disability claims for conditions related to certain toxic exposures. That's what I remember.

Speaker 3: (09:01)

Most three new presumptive conditions were added bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism. The VA is sending letters to eligible vets, but Scott says he received a packet of paperwork that didn't fully explain the

Speaker 4: (09:15)

It's like, okay, once I fill it out, am I done? Do I just wait? Or is there something else that I should do? So that's kinda where my confusion lies right now.

Speaker 3: (09:23)

Veterans advocates say the VA's letters are boilerplate with information. That's not tailored to veterans specific issues or claims that leads

Speaker 5: (09:31)

To mass amounts of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Amongs

Speaker 3: (09:35)

Veterans. Stacy Ray SIM Cox is a law professor and director of the veterans advocacy clinic at Stetson university. And it

Speaker 5: (09:41)

Also means veterans run around trying to get information. They don't need to get cuz VA already has it, but they don't know VA has it. Cause VA didn't tell them that

Speaker 3: (09:49)

Even if veterans submit all the right information, that doesn't mean the money will start flowing anytime soon, if VA already has more than 70,000 claims to review stemming from Parkinsonism, bladder cancer and hypothyroidism, and that's on top of a long standing massive claims backlog for other veterans and their families. As of the beginning of the year, the VA said it had a total of more than 260,000 claims that had been pending longer than 125 days is while the VA has been struggling with a claims backlog for years, secretary Dennis McDonough told reporters last month that the pandemic made it worse.

Speaker 6: (10:24)

We stopped for example, providing what we call compensation and pension exams during the pandemic to ensure that veterans were not exposed to

Speaker 3: (10:33)

The virus. Those medical exams are usually the first up after a veteran files, a claim McDonough says they've resumed now and adds that the VA is taking other steps to catch up under

Speaker 6: (10:44)

Our current plan where we're having workers, employees work at, uh, overtime. We will between that added overtime automation of records, digitization of records and hiring of additional people. Get that down under a hundred thousand claims by early 20, 24, but

Speaker 3: (11:03)

That's still a long time for veterans. Who've been battling health conditions and the VA for years. And Jim Scott, the bladder cancer survivor worries that some of his comrades won't follow through on such a drawn out process.

Speaker 4: (11:15)

Some veterans may go in and apply and not hear anything for an extensive period of time and not keep the claim active if that's what is required. Uh, I do have a concern about that.

Speaker 3: (11:31)

He encourages vets to file claims, stay on top of them and be proactive until they get their benefits. I'm Carson for Raymond San Antonio.

Speaker 1: (11:39)

This story was produced by the American home front project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting. You're listening to K PBS midday edition I'm Jade Henman in our weekend arts preview. We'll take you to sculptures that are like other worldly portals, a theatrical and puppetry take on the snowy streets of Ezra Jack ke stories. Plus a Monday night soul. Joining me with details as KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans. Julia. Welcome.

Speaker 7: (12:23)

Hi Jay. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: (12:25)

So Quint gallery in LA Jolla has some new work on view for an acclaimed local sculptor. What can we expect?

Speaker 7: (12:31)

Right. So Quint's smaller are gallery Gerard. There are two, they are just about to open an exhibition of new sculptures by SAN-based artists, Sasha CUSO Stein and her work is instantly recognizable. I love the way she makes these sort of portals. Um, she fashions sculptures into something that looks other worldly or alien, or maybe it's from the bottom of the ocean. And she uses a drip form method that make parts of her work look alive, or at least like it's suspended in time. Like someone just pressed pause on it. And any minute it could start moving again. And a lot of these drip forms are gold or persent. So it's just really striking the rest of the sculpture, which sometimes looks like lava rock that's all at their 7, 7 22 Gerard space, formally known as Quint one. And Ripstein will be there from one to four on Saturday afternoon.

Speaker 1: (13:29)

And there's some other interesting works on display at Quint. What can we find there?

Speaker 7: (13:34)

Yes, the main space kind of across the street, they recently opened a show of works on paper by Manny Farber. And these are pieces he made and the period between 1968 and 1980, which is right before he moved to Southern California. And it's kind of a distinct period in his style. He cut these large shapes, huge shapes and then worked layers and layers into it, pouring paint from above even so while these are technically works on paper and that's also the title of the exhibition, they seem so much more sculptural than that. And also in the back of Quin main gallery and the tiny, the museum of space they're showing a series of traditional Kaha textiles

Speaker 1: (14:20)

And Quint is hosting an open house style reception Saturday afternoon, but their gallery hours are 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Tuesday through Saturday. Now for some theater, uh, youth theater. In fact, what stood out to you about junior theater's production of Ezra Jack ke

Speaker 7: (14:37)

First these stories for sure, the snowy day is such an iconic children's book about a boy rediscovering his neighborhood after a snowfall, it won the Caldecot medal in the sixties and the setting was modeled after the diverse tenement neighborhood of Keith's own childhood and this junior theater production, which is directed by Candace crystal. They've paired up with puppetry artists, Bridget Roundtree, and Ian gun from animal cracker conspiracy. And they've been working together with the casting crew to create these shadow puppets and projections as well as a handcrafted puppet dog. And this production run is just this weekend. So that's tonight at seven and then two o'clock shows Saturday and Sunday, they shortened the run to reduce COVID risk. They're also going to be seating audience members in family pods,

Speaker 1: (15:35)

That's San Diego, junior theater's production of the snowy day and other stories by Ezra, Jack Keats on stage this weekend only more visual art. This one in the north county sip art studio and gallery and San Marcos is opening a group exhibition tomorrow. Tell us about immunity.

Speaker 7: (15:52)

Yeah, this one's curated by Hugh M Davies, who was the longtime director of museum of contemporary art San Diego from the early eighties until about five years ago. And he is enlisted the work of Claudia Cano, Perry Vasquez, Neil Kendricks, and Michael Satara for this exhibition and there's no theme connecting the work, which is kind of refreshing. And so he picked the term herd immunity just to mark this exhibition's particular place in time. And these artists are all great and unique Claudia cans known for her vivid pop art collage pieces or her more disruptive Orman's pieces to Perry Vasquez was one of the San Diego art prize recipients. And he is recently been working through a massive Palm tree painting phase, but he's also known for really intricate character driven illustrations and Neil Kendricks, who currently has an exhibition on view at Oceanside museum of art.

Speaker 7: (16:53)

That one is illustration and sketches set to original short stories. He also makes use of found canvases. So think like the pages of books that he draws directly on. And I think he'll be showing some of those works at sip. And finally there's painter Michael Satara who will show a series of abstract dog paintings kind of in the pop style. And each one is inspired by celebrities or historical figures or even just concepts. And there will be an opening reception Saturday from four to seven o'clock and they'll have refreshments. And then after that, it will be viewable by appointment that

Speaker 1: (17:34)

An immunity on view until March 5th at sip gallery in San Marcos. Finally, some Monday night music to ease back into the work week, blues soul and Americana singer. Shane hall continues his Monday night residency at the kava what's on, uh, this Monday.

Speaker 7: (17:50)

Yeah. So this is not only a three week showcase for local soul music, but it's also part of the kas's 33rd anniversary. And for each of Shane Hall's nights, he's been there every Monday. He will be sharing this stage with another singer. This week is Ash Easton or Hollander. And she put out an EP in 2020, which is really fantastic. And then Shane hall who will be performing first, by the way, he just released his new EP a few weeks ago called slow. I featured a single from this in December on our five songs to here in San Diego series in the one was called life up, such a genre, bending track for him. And now that the album is out, I've been really loving the opening track. It's not even two minutes long, but it's really captivating. And this one is also called slow. I will leave you with that.

Speaker 8: (18:50)

Feel every kids straight through touch, push your soul tomorrow.

Speaker 1: (19:02)

That's Shane hall who will perform at the Kaba Monday night. You can find details on these and more events or sign up for Julia is weekly arts slash arts, as always be sure to check with organizers for last minute cancellations before heading out. I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans. Julia.

Speaker 7: (19:24)

Thanks. Thanks for having me Jade.