Editor’s note: This week, Riverside County sheriff candidates Chad Bianco and Dave Brown are interviewed. In two weeks, Sheriff Stan Sniff’s interview will appear. Miguel Garcia, the fourth candidate, has not responded to the Town Crier.
Lt. Chad Bianco has been with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for 24 years. He began in corrections and has had progressive assignments from patrol, internal affairs and supervision, and now currently is assigned to the Hemet Station in September 2016, so he is familiar with the issues and problems in Idyllwild.
“I’ve served in every department and area but court services,” he stated. “I have a very broad knowledge of the department under four different sheriffs.”
He was born at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah, and moved to California in 1989.
Bianco is married, has four children, ranging in ages from 21 to 27. All are in or interested in a public-service career.
The high attrition of sheriff’s deputies is a major concern for Bianco and an important issue for him in this campaign.
“Short-term, obviously, I have to stop the mass exit of employees leaving the department,” he stated. His first steps will be finding ways and implementing policies that improve morale. He blames poor morale in the department for the increasing turnover of deputies.
“Some are telling me everyday that they are quitting or in the final stages of background [checks] somewhere else,” he claimed. “It’s no different from anywhere else. They know I’m one of them, and we all want the best department.”
Departmental budget issues derive from the top echelon, Bianco argued, and he does not fault the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.
“We need more fiscal responsibility and that must be direction from the top to eliminate wasteful spending,” he believes, and points to a common bureaucratic budget practice of spending all that is available to demonstrate it was needed.
“We waste money on things we want instead of what we need,” he asserted. As example, he described a recent purchase of new computers for everyone in the station. In his opinion, these were not critical. Consequently, eliminating “wasteful spending” is one of his goals as sheriff.
Benoit Detention Center
Another budget issue that affects the Board of Supervisors is the needed staffing to open the John J. Benoit Detention Center in Indio later this year. New positions have been funded, but not filled, he said.
Bianco argues that correctional officers should be hired to staff the new facility. More could be hired for the same amount of money, he argued. Operating the county jail should be no different than how the state Department of Corrections runs the prisons.
“The failure to hire people is sacrificing public safety and blaming the Board of Supervisors,” Bianco stated.
Besides the supervisors who have endorsed other candidates, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Association, an organization composed primarily of the department’s deputies, are not supporting Sheriff Stan Sniff. The association has contributed more than $600,000 to Bianco’s campaign in the last year.
When asked if that would make future negotiations — whether salary, benefits or job behavior — difficult for him if he were sheriff, Bianco adamantly replied, “No.”
He noted that issues are often mischaracterized. For example, much of the public believes the county sheriff’s deputies oppose the use of body cameras. But Bianco said, “That is a straight-out lie. We all want body cameras.”
The issue is how the policy was imposed and the lack of discussion between the deputies’ association and the Sheriff’s Department’s management.
“What they want is a sheriff that cares about the troops, not himself,” Bianco stated. “They want an open-door policy.
“The only thing the association asks of me is to care more about the department than myself or my political agenda,” Bianco said.
In addition, Bianco said that he and the deputies agree that the cheating issue was not addressed swiftly and directly. He believes more should have been done to ensure the department was not scarred.
“It destroys integrity and morale. It forces people to compromise their standards,” he believes. “Those people should have been dealt with harshly and then moved on.
“We cannot function in today’s society without changing the way we interact with the community,” Bianco opined.
[The “cheating issue” refers to a 2015 incident in which questions and answers to a promotional exam — from deputy to investigator — were found to be circulating around the department. Apparently, no one was fired or demoted because of this incident, although it is possible, but not certain, that some people were suspended or otherwise disciplined.]
While fellow challenger Dave Brown, former Hemet police chief, emphasizes his outsider status, Bianco replied, “I know exactly what’s wrong and what’s right, and can make specific changes immediately.”