Strait On: Sheriff Dave Brown, come hell or high water

Dave Brown for Sheriff 2018
Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown is retiring in December to make a full-fledged run for Riverside County Sheriff in 2018.

■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter

I had the privilege today to sit down for a rare on the record interview with Hemet’s Chief of Police Dave Brown, who will leave his current position Dec. 31 to run for Sheriff of Riverside County in the 2018 election.
I had questions, many proposed by residents of our fair city, so I went directly to the source without any hesitation, and Brown responded likewise.

Question 1: Why did you decide to run for sheriff of Riverside County?
“For the last seven years I’ve been watching what the current sheriff’s lack of leadership has done to our community and I think the same negative effect has occurred to communities all over the county. So there came an aha moment, and at the urging of my colleagues and friends in the business, and my own realization that I was in a position to do something about it, I further realized that the main thing for me to do was to run.
“When you think about the things the sheriff is responsible for and start to take apart the problems in our county that have affected our communities so negatively, you begin to see that the failure of leadership is responsible for a jail system that is completely overrun and in crisis, creating a culture where employees in the Sheriff’s Department have to work in an unsafe environment. All we hear from the sheriff is “blame everybody else.” No responsibility whatsoever. No plan on how to fix it. No cooperation with local jurisdictions. So I decided to do something about it.”

Q2: What are the five accomplishments you are most proud of during your term as Chief of Police?
“I’m most proud that my employees know that I love them. I’m reminded of the two-star general who led the invasion of Baghdad. He was asked after the operation, ‘How do you motivate 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids to put on 50 pounds of gear and march across the desert in 120-degree weather to invade Baghdad and, without question, they follow you?’
“He said, ‘You can’t expect to lead people until they know you love them.’
“So, it is most important that my employees know that I care about them and that I care about their welfare and well-being.
“I’m also proud of the community that supports them. The idea that all walks of life came together to support their police department, not with just the passing of Measure U, but in their election of a City Council that believes in and supports local control of law enforcement. I’m especially proud of that.
“I’m proud that I can leave this office knowing that we have an amazing command staff, fully prepared to take over the leadership of this department and bring this city to its highest level.
“And finally, I’m proud of the privilege to have served my community for a quarter century.”

Q3: What are the five things you didn’t accomplish, but wish you had?
“I really have no regrets.”

Q4: That wasn’t the question. Give me at least one thing that you left undone; there must be something. Nobody is ever completely satisfied. You and I spoke about beat patrols on downtown Florida Avenue. You told me you supported sidewalk patrols. Neither of those things have happened.
“It is still part of the plan. Our downtown area will have bike patrols. Certainly we’ll have dedicated officers who will work the downtown area when Measure U money comes in so we can hire all of those. But it is not a regret. Those things don’t just ‘happen.’ I want to give you an answer. Don’t take any degree of hesitation for lack of confidence that I’ve done everything I set out to do. I guess I sit here today so fulfilled with confidence that I have no regrets about my tenure of service to this city.”

Q5: Are you suggesting that the city doesn’t need you anymore?
“In leadership, some leaders are made for crisis. I would not have told you this seven years ago when I took this job, but I can tell you today, my leadership skills are best suited in times of crisis and this department is no longer in crisis. This city is on the mend. We are in a position where we can now implement some things that we used to dream about being able to do. My skills are better used in going to an organization that is in crisis. The Sheriff’s Department today, in all respects, is suffering a crisis. That’s where I believe that I have been called to lead.”

Q6: You don’t believe you’re abandoning your city?
“Not at all.”

Q7: The paper gets a lot of email from folks who believe that. They believe you got the tax measure passed and are leaving the city high and dry. How do you answer them?
“There’s a very simple answer for the reason I’m leaving: we will not be successful in our valley unless and until the leadership at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is changed. We are being held back from all the successes that we can achieve with that money because the department is losing great employees and great deputy sheriffs twice as fast as they’re bringing them on. They are fleeing the organization and it is causing a crisis because there aren’t enough deputies to patrol the unincorporated areas of the valley.
“So, as long as that organization is suffering from a lack of leadership, we won’t be able to be successful with Measure U. I realize we won the battle against the sheriff’s attempt to take over the Hemet Police Department, and won the battle for Measure U – the next phase of our community’s story are the successes that will come from Measure U, but we are hamstrung until the sheriff’s department has a change of leadership and can fix the problem with overcrowded jails, and fixes the problem with resources and the morale issue within the ranks.
“Just because the current sheriff doesn’t come to Hemet very often doesn’t mean that Sheriff Brown doesn’t intend to spend a lot of time in this valley addressing the issues.”

Q8: What makes you think you are more qualified than Deputy Sheriff Chad Bianco, who is also running against Sheriff Sniff? You once told me he was one of the bravest men you’d ever met.
“I have tremendous respect for him but, he’s not qualified to run the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. He has not run an organization. He has never been the final authority. He has never been in a policy making position and those are things I bring to the office. So, as much as I admire Chad Bianco, the reality is he cannot beat Stan Sniff.”

Q8 followup: Bianco made the statement that things were screwed up in the department, otherwise Dave Brown wouldn’t be running. Did you see that?
“Yes. I read the other paper, too.”

Q9: You told me how Hemet has improved under your watch. Fact is, crime has gone up in Hemet. Crime in San Jacinto has gone down. Crime, drugs, vagrancy have become worse. Prostitutes still walk the streets. At nights criminals and the homeless are roaming the streets. How do you see that as an improvement?
“First of all, what I have said is that we’re in a much better position than we were seven years ago when I took this job. Seven years ago the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, under the current leadership, was trying to take over local communities. That’s not happening anymore. So I do believe that I leave the department in a better place than it was only because of the success of our community. I don’t take a bit of credit with me for what we’ve been able to do. I credit our community in believing in and supporting the Hemet Police Department. That’s why I think we’re a better place today.”

Q10: If elected sheriff, what will be your first order?
“The first thing I would do is get to know my staff. People might say with 4,200 people employed by the department, how on earth would I get to know all my staff? There are enormously talented people throughout the ranks of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
“What I have seen is many people are being ignored for their talents and contributions; some for political reasons. I would first make a concentrated effort to know people at all levels of the organization. I know many of them personally; many are dear friends. Part of the reason I’m running is due to their testimony about conditions under which they are working.”

Q11: If you become sheriff will you support a bond or other tax measure to raise money for the department as you did in Hemet?
“There is no way to assess that. The first thing I would do is the same thing we did in Hemet. I will make sure that we use every single dollar efficiently and as effectively as we possibly can within the sheriff’s department. I can tell you it is not being done today. So the first order of business before we even discuss revenue will be, how are we spending our money today? In the sheriff’s department I see waste on a daily basis that we have already fixed in our community. One example, take the study that the County Board of Supervisors commissioned to try to find efficiency in the Public Safety Department’s account. The reason they commissioned that study was because the sheriff would not change his ways.
“In modern law enforcement we don’t need to send a deputy sheriff to every call. Everybody knows this, but there are still areas within the sheriff’s department’s operation where they are sending sworn deputies to calls that civilians volunteers can handle. We have to limit those kinds of things in the interest of efficiency in how we spend our dollars. I have no plans to suggest or recommend any kind of bond.”

Q12: I’ve been made aware that the Hemet Police Department has appointed a new Public Information Officer which most people, and certainly the media, must be pleased about.
“Lt. Glenn Brock is a fine officer and I think he will serve the community well in that position, which will bring the city and its police department closer and more understandable.”

Q13: You say you’re not political. If so, why do you think it hasn’t been a conflict of interest that you have accepted appointments as interim city manager on several occasions? Isn’t that a political office and does it not present a conflict of interest? That’s a political appointment.
“Well, it is not an elected office. The City Council appointed me.”

Q13 follow up: The question is why did you accept it?
“Because I’m a public servant. When an elected official asks me to do something, I consider it an honor. I was flattered and humbled both times that they asked me to assume that temporary position and I would do it again if asked.”

Q14: Are you aware of the incident at a public Coffee With Karlee meeting at Downtown Deli a few Saturday’s ago? Two of your officers escorted an invited citizen to leave the premises at the request of the owner, although it was advertised as a public meeting by Councilwoman Karlee Meyer and clearly stated that the public was invited. All of this happened in the presence of two city council members, the new city manager and a deputy sheriff.
“I am only vaguely aware of what happened and I wouldn’t want to comment until I know all of the facts. I really don’t have an answer for you because I have not read the report.”

Q14: Nearing the end of your duty as Hemet Chief of Police, do you consider yourself a happy person?
“I’m a blessed person.”
(When I asked Chief Brown how long he’d been married, his answer showed a real sense of humor)
“Twenty seven years. I’m often kidded about that. We were married on my 24th birthday, June 24, 1990. Makes it easy to remember, celebrating two anniversaries at one time.”

Q15: Are you supporting anyone to take your place as chief after you leave this office?
“It is not my choice, but what I can tell you is, Deputy Chief Rob Webb is highly qualified and prepared. He has been running the daily operation of the department for some time, but it is not my place to support or recommend. That is entirely up to the City Council and the City Manager. I will be supportive of whoever they choose.”

Q16: One last question – will you grant me an interview if you do become sheriff?
“Absolutely.”

As a journalist I have no dog in this race, but talk to Chief Brown and you know he means business and has come out swinging. Interviews with Chad Bianco and Sheriff Sniff are on my agenda. This should be the most interesting political race in Riverside County in a month of Sundays.

Just sayin’.
rustystrait@gmail.com

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