Jerry Lenthall, 59, said he could find enough ways to cut the department’s budget to afford to put five additional deputies on the street. The “best bang for the buck” would be to use those deputies to augment a couple of specialized units, such as gang task force, he said.
“We haven’t seen any cuts to administration,” Lenthall said. “In the last two years we’ve only seen deputies (cut). It seems to be low-lying fruit.”
Lenthall said he would have an evaluation of the department done to determine if resources are being used wisely – and part of that analysis would determine whether the undersheriff position is needed or not.
“We can’t afford to lose another deputy,” Lenthall said.
He also said he would re-examine the number of take-home cars driven by department employees, and expand the department’s volunteer organization using a certain level of retired law enforcement officers who could handle some day-to-day activities, such as tracking and monitoring registered sex offenders from the department or working cold cases.
This could give deputies and investigators more time in the field to work on cases, he said.
Lenthall, a one-term 3rd District supervisor, said he’s received support for his sheriff campaign from those who didn’t like some of his land-use votes as a supervisor.
“My first love and passion is law enforcement,” he said.
Q&A: Four questions for Jerry Lenthall
Q. There have been some high-profile examples in recent years of problems within the Sheriff’s Department that have caused image problems and led the public to question the leadership of the department. How would you restore public confidence in the department? How would you change the culture within the department?
A. The image problems are a result of a lack of leadership. I will lead by example and set the standard for conduct with clear expectations. Once our internal expectations are established, we will quickly achieve the desired change in attitude from all employees. Sound decision making and solid leadership, free from controversy, will swiftly restore the community confidence. The line personnel are doing a stellar job. They need the support of a rock solid management team that understands the concerns of the public and provides clear direction. Those who act outside of the ethical standards will be dealt with.
Q. What do you view as the top crime issue facing the unincorporated areas of the county and how would you address it?
A. Crime has no geographic boundaries and frequently criminal activities originating in urban areas spill into the remote parts of our county. Crimes that significantly impact our residents are gangs and drugs. Gang violence must be held at bay through aggressive enforcement and prosecution. With a collaborative effort between police, probation, the district attorney and the sheriff’s office, we will reduce the impact of these issues and preserve our quality of life. Drug offenders are responsible for most crimes impacting our citizens. Working with drug and alcohol services, mental health and social services will improve our prevention and education efforts, reducing recidivism.
Q. If asked to cut 10 percent of your budget, how would you do that while still maintaining current levels of service?
A. Cost cutting at any level is a painful and difficult process. It has to be approached in an inclusive and objective manner. Stakeholders including deputies and the community need to participate in the discussion. If the $57 million budget is reduced by 10 percent we will not be able to maintain current levels of service. I have studied the budget and believe there is approximately $1 million that can be saved through work furlough, home detention, alternative sentencing and diversion programs. Public safety should be last on the list for cuts, and the loss would result in a devastating impact to the community.
Q. If elected, how would you establish a relationship with other elected leaders, especially the Board of Supervisors? What specifically would you do to improve relations with the board?
A. My experience on the Board of Supervisors has provided me critical insight into how teamwork can be optimized. I will strike a balance which respects the insights and input of the supervisors without compromising the office of sheriff. I will attend department head meetings and take an active role in the county government process. I will host an annual service summit at the Sheriff’s Department inviting all department heads and their management teams to find ways to improve the delivery of our services. While respecting individual confidentiality, we can collectively establish best practice protocols that will improve our effectiveness.