RIVERSIDE – Six members of former Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff’s executive team have been released from duty in the wake of Chad Bianco’s ascension to the office on Jan. 7.
Among those released were two Assistant Sheriffs and four Chief Deputy Sheriffs. Also released was Sniff’s Legislative Assistant, a civilian employee. A correctional chief deputy has been demoted to Correctional Captain. The shakeup has been described as nothing short of a “bloodbath.”
The only unscathed member of the formerly constituted executive team is the Finance Director, a civilian employee.
In addition to those Bianco released, one of his first official acts was to place Capt. David Kurylowicz, an openly gay man, on paid administrative leave.
The moves to release, demote, and place an employee on administrative leave all occurred before Bianco was officially sworn into office.
Between those who retired in December before Bianco took office and those he released, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has lost a reported 200 years of institutional knowledge, memory, and experience.
The purge of nearly the entire executive leadership of the Sheriff’s Department is one the most sudden in recent years. After Sniff was appointed Sheriff in 2007, he assembled his executive team over time, said former Assistant Sheriff Kevin Vest. It took nearly a year before Sniff released a single Chief Deputy whom he deemed was not a good fit for the team. He relied the executive team in place to help him navigate the behemoth organization.
Bianco did not return numerous email, phone call or text message requests for comment.
Vest, 49, who had been with the Sheriff’s Department for 25 years, was released on Monday, Jan. 7. He expected the hammer would fall.
“There had been very little discussion during the transition period,” Vest told Uken Report. “When there is a lack of information and no indication you’re staying, the only conclusion you can come to is that you’re going.”
Vest said Bianco called him into the Department’s conference room and handed him a letter from Human Resources saying he was being released.
With Bianco void of executive experience, Vest said it could be difficult for Bianco to acclimate to the position.
“It’s not quite what you think from the outside looking in,” Vest said.
In the coming months, Vest said county residents should watch for changes in policies and procedures that center on equipment, patrol operations, pursuits, use of force, uniforms, facial hair, tattoos, and other matters.
In addition to the so-called bloodbath of executive staff, Bianco’s critics say he is on a fast track to “dumb down” the department.
In December, one month after winning the election but before being sworn into office, the department’s human resources changed the qualifications for some leadership positions. The department’s three assistant sheriffs will no long be required to have college degrees or prior experience serving as chief deputies. Assistant Sheriff is the department’s third-highest ranking position and all of the current chief deputies who would’ve been eligible for promotion were appointed by Sheriff Sniff.
The loss of institutional knowledge comes as Bianco takes charge of running the second-largest sheriff’s department in California. He is responsible for 3,600 employees and a $685 million budget. Before being elected sheriff in November 2018, Bianco was one of three lieutenants who reported to a captain at a station with a $22 million budget.
He now has jurisdiction over 12 stations and five county jails in the sprawling 7,300-square-mile county.
The general public likely won’t immediately feel the impact of executive house, Vest said. But, in time the policies and procedures Bianco is putting into place will become noticeably visible and could impact the public.
- David Kurylowicz: Riverside County Sheriff's Department