Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff has been one of the most accessible sheriff’s in modern history of the department whether to the public or the media.
Sniff said logged more than 400,000 miles meeting and speaking before community groups nonstop for the past 11 years. He was rarely in his office. Instead, Sniff said he was in the community listening to his constituents, maintaining a high profile for the department.
He was also accessible to the media by cell phone, email, text messages, meetings, interviews and beyond. He did not necessarily always appreciate the questions, but he was accessible.
That accessibility is on display one last time as Sniff obliged a request for an interview with Uken Report. The County Sheriff talked about challenges for his successor, what lies ahead for him, his reflection on the recent election and much more.
Uken Report (UR): It is now more than 6 weeks since the Nov. 6 election. How are you feeling? Angry, surprised, confused, betrayed, other?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: I am actually at peace and transitioning into my next phase of life after four decades of service in law enforcement. The job of Sheriff is a complex one with so many competing interests, including many, many forced choice decisions — and especially so during these last few years when our county faced so many fiscal challenges. When organizations are running smoothly, some draw the conclusion that it happens by magic or accident, but it really takes the smooth, skilled team work of key leaders. Contrary to the campaign nonsense, the Sheriff’s Department has been well run by a great team dealing creatively with our fiscal challenges and the profound changes to our state’s criminal justice system.
UR: Did the voters get this election right? Why or why not?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: All elections are based upon the perceptions of voters at the time and there was certainly an enormous amount of money spent by some unions to create an impression that a change needed to occur here in Riverside County and Los Angeles County. History will probably not support that over time.
UR: Were you surprised at the outcome as so many of your supporters were? Why or why not?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: No, not surprised. The amount of special interest money that was committed into the Sheriff’s race this year was the harbinger from the June primary on.
UR: What is one thing you really wanted to do/get done that you will not be able to finish?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: The budget reductions over the past few years to the department had reduced our staffing levels down below the time when I took office 11 years ago. Finally this summer for the new fiscal year we received a modest increase in funding to begin rebuilding the force and begin ramping up for the new John Benoit Detention Center. After receiving the hard knocks involved in downsizing, we were all looking forward to reversing course and regaining some of our lost muscle mass in staffing, including increasing our unincorporated area patrols.
UR: What did you find to give you the greatest pleasure in being Riverside County Sheriff?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: Representing a truly great law enforcement agency and our employees throughout all our Riverside County communities every day. It has been the honor of my life, the ever-present challenges included.
UR: What was the most difficult aspect about being Riverside County Sheriff?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: The ever-present balance in representing the needs of the public I serve, with the expectations of our employees, with funding resources we are granted, while simultaneously complying with state law, applicable case law from our courts, and our other legal requirements we must operate within. Lots of moving parts in steering a huge organization through all of that.
UR: If you had it all to do over, would you do anything different?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: The Sheriff’s Department has been remarkably well run in the face of some severe challenges over the years, and I wish that I had been much more successful in getting that story out to more of our voters.
UR: We understand you will be listing accomplishments on your Facebook page throughout December? What do you believe is your single greatest accomplishment while serving as sheriff?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: It is pretty well-known within our county government that the Sheriff’s Department is exceptionally well-managed with great precision fiscally. I am proud of that year-after-year effort by our executive leadership team, but I am most proud of the advances we made in diversity within our ranks and our strides in having a much-more educated workforce than when I took office in 2007. Education and diversity are two key ingredients for modern community policing and the creative law enforcement programs and initiatives required of us for the future.
UR: What do you want your legacy as Riverside County Sheriff to be?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: Our agency was led by a professional, well-educated and diverse leadership team that dealt creatively with the challenges we faced with great integrity. We held our employees accountable and operated with transparency to the public we serve. And in the end, we did the very best with the resources we were allocated, in both good fiscal times and the bad ones.
UR: Would you ever consider running for Riverside County Sheriff, again, or any public office? Why or why not?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: At this point in my life, I am focused on entering retirement, spending much more time on long-neglected hobbies and personal interests, and traveling.
UR: Throughout the campaign you highlighted your qualifications for the job and in the process pointed out Lt. Chad Bianco’s lack of qualifications. What do you think will be his biggest challenge/hurdle in the position?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: Resources will continue to be increasingly constrained within Riverside County for a variety of reasons and those would be very tough to manage or deal with for even a well-educated, very experienced senior leadership team.
UR: You mentioned in your statement after the election that would resume your love of travel. What is the first place you will visit? (We promise not to follow.)
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: Well, am past due for a return to Hawaii, and before becoming Sheriff 11 years ago, I would travel overseas every 18 months or so. I have traveled to Europe many times earlier, and am now eagerly looking forward to visiting countries there I had yet not gotten to. My travel interests also include so many locations in the U.S. that I have never seen.
UR: Any advice for your successor?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: No response.
UR: Any message to your thousands of supporters?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff: It has been the honor of my life to be able to serve as your Riverside County Sheriff for these past 11 years and 3 months.
UR: Is there anything Uken Report missed that you would like to add?
Riverside County Sheriff Sniff (and assistant):
- traveled by himself (or with his civilian assistant) unlike many sheriffs without any bodyguard contingent whatsoever, and without other executives in tow, habitually drove older plain Ford Crown Victoria without any police equipment like lights and sirens, his only “new” car was the Ford Crown Vic bought off a commercial lot when he first took office — he drove that car for seven years and over 170,000 miles before turning it in. His other Ford Crown Vics were plain, used hand-me-downs driven well over 100,000 miles. His predecessor used high-end SUVs for the execs, with new ones annually, this Sheriff banned the SUVs and restricted his execs to the Ford Crown Vics
- when he took office, he banned his dept leaders from on-duty golf and the use of govt vehicles for their personal use
- banned the use of dept helicopters for VIP travel transports of the Sheriff or dept execs
- Sheriff rarely traveled for conferences outside of Southern California