Sheriff Candidates Spar Over Jail, Immigration, and

by Nick Welsh

The gloves came off within the first few seconds of last
Thursday evening’s candidates’ forum that pitted incumbent Sheriff
Jim Anderson against his challenger, Lompoc Police Chief Bill
Brown  —  and they stayed off all night. In his opening remarks,
Sheriff Anderson questioned Brown’s integrity and honesty, charging
that the challenger had spread misinformation by exaggerating the
degree of discord within the Sheriff’s Department for political
gain. “His accusation that the Sheriff’s Department is in shambles
is unfounded,” charged an angry Anderson. “His rhetoric only
alienates people and can’t possibly unite a department he claims is

Brown slammed back, accusing Anderson of “bad decisions and poor
direction” in cutting the DARE anti-gang and drug intervention
program for 42 public schools for two-and-a-half years,
unilaterally refusing to jail 6,000 people charged with serious
misdemeanors because of jail overcrowding, and unilaterally
severing relations with the Sheriff’s Council  —  which provided
the department between $1 million and $2 million  —  after the high
rollers running that nonprofit fell to public feuding.

Anderson’s main pitch was that after 32 years in the Sheriff’s
Department, he has the necessary experience and know-how to run a
sprawling enterprise with 700 employees that provides basic public
safety to four contract cities and unincorporated areas of the
county, and operates a jail bursting with more than 1,000
prisoners. By contrast, Anderson said Brown runs a relatively tiny
department with only 49 sworn deputies and a 23-bed jail. Brown
responded by pointing to his experience as president of the
California Police Chiefs Association last year, and noted that
Anderson had been supported by just 63 percent of his deputies.

Anderson  —  who has been endorsed by the Deputy Sheriff’s
Association and the county firefighters union  —  proclaimed, “I am
the jail overcrowding expert,” explaining he had studied the issue
for seven years. He has proposed a $153 million new North County
jail capable of housing up to 1,500 prisoners. Brown derided the
proposal as “a myopic repeat of a failed plan,” referring to an
unsuccessful effort to pass a sales tax increase to fund a new jail
in 2000.

Brown stressed the need to pursue alternative
sentencing  —  like work furlough  —  far more aggressively.
Anderson shot back that the department had expanded its alternative
sentencing program by 300 percent in the past year, and insisted a
new jail was essential, given projections that jail population
would increase by 36 percent by 2020. Brown complained of the lack
of county detox beds (there are only 24) and charged that
Anderson’s decision to refuse misdemeanor bookings took away the
limited leverage of court-affiliated rehab programs: to toss
addicts in jail for a dirty test.

Brown attacked Anderson’s assertion early in the campaign that
local law enforcement should be given authority to detain people
solely because of their immigration status. He argued that the
entire community will be less safe if immigrants can’t trust law
enforcement to protect, not deport, them. Anderson said his
interest was only in apprehending terrorists and that Brown was
taking his words out of context to scare immigrants.

Anderson faulted Brown’s department by pointing out that in
2005, the Lompoc Police Department cleared only 37 percent of its
serious cases, while the Sheriff’s Department cleared 75 percent.
He concluded, “His [Brown’s] ship is rudderless, his ideas are
bankrupt, and his experience is inadequate.” Brown retorted by
saying of his opponent, “No amount of spin or political posturing
or last-minute efforts to paper over these mistakes will remove the
albatross of failed leadership that hangs around his neck.”
Afterward Anderson declined to shake hands with Brown.

At this point, Anderson leads Brown in fundraising, having
collected $274,454 as of September 30. Of that, $80,000 is a loan
Anderson extended his campaign, and $75,000 comes from members of
the Sheriff’s Council loyal to him. By contrast, Brown raised
$142,500, $23,000 of which he or his father loaned the campaign;
$23,500 came from a faction of Sheriff’s Council members angry at


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.