Police-resident relations and sexual assault were just two of the topics on the table at last Thursday’s public forum among the candidates running for Santa Barbara County Sheriff.
Dozens turned out for the event, sponsored by the Isla Vista Community Services District and UCSB’s Associated Students, as candidates Lt. Eddie Hsueh, Lt. Brian Olmstead, and incumbent Sheriff Bill Brown shared similar answers on how to handle such problems — more education, more public trust, and less alcohol and drug abuse on the part of residents.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, through the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, is the sole law enforcement provider for Isla Vista. Polls open June 5, and if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff election in November between the two who receive the most votes.
Brown cited a drop in forcible rapes over the course of the last five years, from a high of 26 in 2014 to a low of seven in 2017. He and the other candidates attributed the decline to a combination of community-driven programs and more enforcement in the area.
“We have to make sure our community knows we do our damnedest — the best we can — to prosecute these cases, and to use compassion, to use the investigate tools we have at our disposal to make sure these cases have the best probability of being prosecuted,” Hsueh told the crowd.
But Brown, Hsueh, and Olmstead differed on whether the Sheriff’s Office should cooperate with ICE agents, a reference to Brown’s previous statements on SB 54, the “sanctuary state” bill.
“There are many serious and violent crimes excluded” from the list of crimes individuals may commit that would prompt a notification or transfer request from ICE, Brown said. His opposition to the so-called “sanctuary state” bill is that it doesn’t cover enough.
Five protesters who gathered outside of the Isla Vista Community Room on Thursday night held signs protesting Brown’s stance on ICE. At the meeting, they stood silently with posters declaring “Incarcerated firefighters paid $1/Hr” and “Replace Bill Brown.”
Hsueh and Olmstead both said that deputies were not immigration officers, and that law enforcement needs to follow state law.
“We need to concentrate on protecting the community and removing violent people from the community,” Olmstead said. “That’s our primary responsibility — protecting life.”