For many years, solely these with regulation enforcement credentials have been allowed to run for sheriff in all California counties together with San Francisco.
However a proposed state regulation would open the submit to all registered voters in a transfer Sen. Scott Wiener calls an “essential step ahead in our efforts at police accountability and prison justice reform.”
“Our sheriffs in California play a major position in our prison justice system patrolling, working jails, working jail well being programs,” Wiener mentioned at a press convention Tuesday. “We have to guarantee that we’ve true democracy and accountability in choosing these very highly effective people.”
Senate Invoice 271, the Sheriff Democracy and Variety Act, would take away the requirement that sheriff candidates are regulation enforcement officers with Peace Officer Requirements and Coaching certificates.
Established in 1988, the requirement has led to many sheriffs working unopposed and stifled range by permitting solely “a tiny share of the inhabitants to run,” Wiener mentioned. Forty 9 of California’s sheriffs are white males, whereas three are Latino males, two are Japanese males and 4 are white girls.
Wiener took intention at sure sheriffs “we’ve a problem with” within the state. He referred to as out those that cooperate with immigration authorities, fail to implement COVID-19 public well being orders or run jails which are “not precisely as much as snuff when it comes to defending human rights, entry to well being care and serving to individuals to really keep alive whereas they’re in jail.”
Whereas Wiener blasted sheriffs in different counties, he praised San Francisco’s Sheriff Paul Miyamoto, who is without doubt one of the two Japanese sheriffs within the state. Wiener instructed the San Francisco Examiner he endorsed Miyamoto in 2019, when the sheriff ran unopposed, and plans to once more sooner or later.
“Sheriff Miyamoto is a powerful and forward-looking sheriff,” Wiener mentioned. “I supported him in 2019, and I anticipate supporting him if he seeks reelection in 2023.”
However the two don’t see precisely eye-to-eye on SB 271, which has drawn the opposition of law enforcement groups just like the California Police Chiefs Affiliation and California State Sheriffs’ Affiliation.
Whereas Miyamoto mentioned he might assist increasing who’s eligible to run for sheriff, he mentioned the proposed laws goes too far.
“I’m open to broadening the eligibility standards for sheriff to incorporate related public security expertise,” Miyamoto mentioned.
San Francisco has prior to now had a sheriff who wasn’t a regulation enforcement officer. Former Sheriff Michael Hennessey, who served from 1980 till 2012, was first elected earlier than California required sheriff candidates to be POST-certified and continued to be elected underneath an exception to the rule.
Hennessey was a prisoners rights lawyer and authorized counsel to a previous sheriff earlier than being elected.
“As at the moment written, SB 271 overlooks the worth of all public security expertise together with former Sheriff Hennessey’s in working a regulation enforcement company,” Miyamoto mentioned.
The California State Sheriff’s Affiliation pushed for the regulation enforcement requirement to be enacted in response to Hennessey, whose tenure in workplace was marked by the implementation of progressive packages together with prisoner schooling.
Earlier than then, California allowed any registered voter to run for sheriff — with out being a peace officer — from 1850 on, in response to Wiener’s workplace.
“It needs to be as much as voters who they choose and whether or not they prioritize somebody who has regulation enforcement expertise or whether or not they prioritize somebody who is just administrator or somebody who has important expertise working a public well being system,” Wiener mentioned.
Wiener mentioned his invoice throughout a press convention with backers crucial of sheriffs in Alameda, Santa Clara and Los Angeles counties.
Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Motion, mentioned she is combating to reform the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Division underneath Alex Villanueva.
“As we work to convey accountability to his workplace we’d like individuals apart from regulation enforcement to run for sheriff,” Cullors mentioned. “The subsequent step in the direction of reworking the system is to have leaders with radical decarceral platforms run for the sheriff’s seat.”
Cat Brooks, government director of Justice Groups Community, mentioned Alameda County residents are “exhausted with the established order.”
“Each election cycle our neighborhood yearns for the power to carry our sheriff accountable,” Brooks mentioned. “And each election cycle we’re denied.”
She mentioned they hope to “run a various pool of candidates” for sheriff.
Wiener’s invoice is predicted to bear a listening to earlier than the Senate Governance and Finance Committee in late April.
Former San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has lengthy supported getting rid of the regulation enforcement requirement and is supportive of SB 271.
“Significant reform of the jails will fall manner brief except we modernize how we elect our sheriffs,” Mirkarimi instructed the Examiner. “Up and down the state, I see how the basics of tackling excessive recidivism charges with accountable reentry packages are relegated as a fringe obligation. We have to encourage extra individuals to run for sheriff, elevate the discourse and problem a regulation enforcement tradition that solely needs one in every of their very own.”