Lompoc Police Chief Bill Brown announced he would challenge Sheriff Jim Anderson for the post of top cop in the county last Thursday, explaining, “The level of confidence and trust both inside and outside the department has been compromised. A change of leadership is required.” Brown faulted Anderson for selling pretend badges to big donors to the Sheriff’s Council; for attempting to talk former council president Chris Edgecomb out of filing an assault complaint against his successor Jim Towle; and finally for abruptly dissolving the department’s relations with the council altogether last December. Brown said the nonprofit organization should be reconstituted as the Santa Barbara County Public Safety Foundation, charged with raising much-needed funds for all the law enforcement agencies throughout the county.
Born in Alabama, the son of an advance scout for Christian televangelist Billy Graham, Brown took over the Lompoc Department 10 years ago, fighting an uphill battle against gang violence and domestic abuse with a department beset by rapid turnover, losing 20 officers to the Santa Maria Police Department. In the coming sheriff’s election, Brown — who has never run for office before — will face not only the wily incumbent Anderson but also Anderson’s politically accomplished predecessor and rival, Jim Thomas. Brown charged Anderson and Thomas both bear some responsibility for the jail overcrowding crisis, and said steps needed to be taken to address the problem now. “We can’t wait the five years it would take to build a new jail, assuming we can even convince voters to spring for the $153 million it will cost to build.”