Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown seeks to replace Sniff

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Editor’s note: Three men have announced their candidacy for Riverside County Sheriff in the 2018 election. Challenging incumbent Stan Sniff are

Dave Brown, Hemet police chief, is a candidate for Riverside County sheriff.
Photo courtesy Brown campaign

Riverside County Lt. Chad Bianco and Hemet City Police Chief Dave Brown.

The Town Crier will interview each candidate before the June primary, when the top two vote getters will move to the November election.

The first interview was with challenger Chad Brown, who is a lieutenant at the Riverside County Hemet Station and appeared in the Oct. 12 edition of the Town Crier. Below is the interview with Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown.

“I love my job,” Brown said at the beginning of the interview. “I’ve spent over half my life working in the city of Hemet.” And Dec. 31, 2017, will be his last day as Hemet police chief. He has already submitted his resignation.

Complete retirement from police work is not Brown’s intention. While he enjoys traveling and his family, he wants to be the next Riverside County Sheriff. To achieve this post, he has already begun the campaign, limited to evenings and weekends. Full-time campaigning begins in January.

Brown knows the Hill. He grew up in Hemet, attended Little Lake Elementary School, and graduated from Hemet High School in 1984. After college, he started his law enforcement career in Pomona, but “I felt called to come back to Hemet and have served 25 years.”

His wife is also from Hemet and they have three children whose ages range from 19 to 25.

When asked why he was willing to leave the comfort of Hemet to be sheriff for the whole county, Brown replied, “It became apparent to us in the cities and communities that we are only as successful as the county sheriff. And the sheriff creates an environment to be successful.”

His colleagues, other city chiefs, as well as some within the County Sheriff’s Department, have approached Brown and encouraged him to challenge Sheriff Sniff.

Since he has publicly announced his intention to enter the race, two current Riverside County Supervisors — John Tavaglione (2nd District) and Chuck Washington (3rd District) — have endorsed him.

Issues in sheriff’s race

Vacancies and morale

Staffing for the Sheriff’s Department is in crisis, according to Brown. “It is literally spiraling out of control. They’re losing about 30 deputy sheriffs per month and not replacing them,” he claimed.

The dramatic lose of deputies, caused by the differences between Sniff and the board, has created “… an attitude that it’s not a great place to work,” he added. For seven years, Brown said he has watched hundreds of positions go unfilled because, in his opinion, “it’s a miserable place to work.”

In the past few years, Brown said that the Hemet Police Department has been able to hire eight former Riverside County deputies, with 3 to 13 years of experience. “That’s unheard of, and we’re just one of ten county [police] departments.”

Jail beds

Another major concern for Brown is the size of the county jail system. He argues that it is “one half the size it should be. We are severely undersized.”

The consequence of insufficient jail beds is that “for the cities, when we make an arrest, suspects are held just a fraction of the sentence.”

While he agrees that Sniff has pointed to the inadequacy of the current jail system, The sheriff has stated that since the passage of Assembly Bill 109 in 2012, Riverside County has made more then 40,000 early releases.

“We rarely hear a solution,” lamented Brown. “This revolving door has to be fixed.”

County crime task forces

Related to the insufficient staffing, Brown expressed regret that the Sniff has “pulled out of many of the countywide task forces, such as the gang task force.”

In order to downsize, these task forces were the first areas to see fewer and eventually no staffing, he argued. “It’s a travesty, some of the best work gets done through collaboration.”

Brown says that the sheriffs in San Diego and San Bernardino counties devote far more resources to these countywide task forces than in Riverside County.

Unincorporated areas

Fewer deputies countywide mean fewer deputies in the unincorporated areas, which include Idyllwild and the other Hill communities. Brown, who is familiar with Idyllwild, believes two deputies for this area is a massive problem.

“I will restore the resident deputy program so that communities like Idyllwild can be better served,” he said. “It makes perfect sense to assign deputies to work in their own neighborhoods whenever possible. This is the essence of community policing.”

There are a number of tasks that don’t require sworn deputies or investigating traffic accidents. Reassigning work to other staff will allow deputies to be reassigned to unincorporated areas or task forces, Brown believes.

“We can put deputies back out in the street. Put people back in Idyllwild,” he argued.

Brown’s solutions

Without a new culture, retraining employees so that they enjoy coming to work and feel empowered, these problems will not change, Brown opined. He’s speaking for those sheriff’s employees who are concerned and told him they fear speaking out.

“It’s difficult to work in an organization, where you don’t feel trusted or empowered,” he argued. “This is a staffing crisis affecting the whole county. And there’s no plan to fix it.”

Brown believes he can add staff without a bigger budget, but it will require retraining employees. He does not believe deputies are leaving over pay and benefit issues. “That’s what the sheriff tells you.”

“People who enjoy their work will stay,” he said. “it will take time to fix. We don’t need more money. There are almost 2,200 deputies. There’s no reason each station can’t be adequately staffed.”

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