PALM SPRINGS – At a time when Palm Springs is making history for having the first all-LGBTQ City Council in the nation, the Palm Springs Police Officers Association (PSPOA) has surprised some city leaders for endorsing an ultraconservative, right wing candidate for Riverside County Sheriff whose views about the LGBTQ community are troubling.
The endorsement itself has raised concerns but so has the manner in which it was done. In question is how the PSPOA decided whom to endorse – Incumbent Republican Sheriff Stan Sniff or his Republican challenger Lt. Chad Bianco. The organization ultimately gave its support to Bianco who has come under fire for a wide-ranging questionnaire he completed – and certified — that provides a window into his views on homosexual marriage, homosexual conversion therapy, immigration, separating children from their parents, and more.
You may read the complete questionnaire and Bianco’s responses here.
PSPOA leaders have not returned Uken Report’s multiple requests for comment. But that’s not the case with leaders of the LGBTQ community.
Thomi Clinton, executive director and CEO of the Transgender Community Coalition, said it is “disappointing” the PSPOA chose to endorse someone that does not represent the entire community but a political agenda.
“I feel that Chad needs more time to understand the needs of a diverse community,” Clinton said.
Councilmember Geoff Kors with regard to the questionnaire said, “I am troubled by a number of the responses and would like to know how Sheriff Sniff would answer those same questions.”
Kors said he is particularly concerned about the response that would deny the right of transgender individuals to obtain identification consistent with their gender identity as that could impact treatment by the Sheriff’s Department and placement in jails.
“Sheriff Sniff has adopted policies I advocated for when I worked for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, along with Equality California and Human Rights Campaign,” Kors said. “And, I will work with whoever the sheriff is to make sure those policies are in place and followed.”
Have you asked Lt. Bianco if he would maintain the current LGBT policies adopted by Sheriff Sniff? Kors asked.
Yes, we did.
“Your question is not a simple question,” Bianco said. “Would I maintain the current policies? No. I will make them better. I firmly believe our current policies are paper policies only, and serve simply as a check-off for political purposes. I do not believe we have any type of a meaningful relationship with LGBT leaders in the community. I do not think that by participating in a parade, or showing up at a couple events shows any type of real policy or engagement.”
He declined to say how and which policies he would make better.
Despite numerous attempts to get Sniff to participate in the questionnaire, he repeatedly declined.
“Why on earth would I have responded to that questionnaire — on those, or the other ridiculous/bigoted questions that have absolutely zero to do with my duties as Sheriff — in an effort to get an endorsement from a group I didn’t care to have an endorsement from,” Sniff told Uken Report. “I get questionnaires all the time from groups I have no interest in being supported by, don’t fill them out and don’t return; they go into the trash.”
Furthermore, Sniff said, “Several of those questions are clearly in violation of settled federal law, and underscore how absurd it is that anyone seeking to be the chief law enforcement officer of the county did not know or understand it.
Councilmember J.R. Roberts said the PSPOA’s didn’t necessarily surprise him, adding, “I can’t say I’m thrilled with it. I wish they would be more neutral. I’ve heard from more than one police officer that they aren’t thrilled with the choice.”
Roberts said met with Bianco and interviewed him for about two hours; Roberts said he tried several times to meet with Sniff but their schedules never coordinated.
Roberts said he found Bianco to be “honest, forthright, and easy to talk to.” Roberts went so far as to say he was “impressed” with Bianco even though the two are diametrically opposed. Roberts said Bianco provided some “interesting answers” on the questionnaire and theorized that Bianco did not fully understand or fully comprehend the answers.
Here are some of the questions and Bianco’s responses.
Still, Roberts said, “Neither camp shows high leadership skills to win. There’s clearly not a lot of traffic on the high road with these two.”
Ultimately, Roberts said, “This is not our race. This is not our issue. I couldn’t care less who gets in. They are both the same. They are hard core conservatives.”
Palm Springs City Councilmember Lisa Middleton told Uken Report the PSPOA has every right to endorse whomever it chooses.
“I’m sure they interviewed both candidates,” Middleton said. (Bianco’s) views are not consistent with my views and not consistent with the views of many Palm Springs residents. His comments in the questionnaire reflect a serious misunderstanding of the transgender community, like myself, and its life experiences and challenges.”
Middleton, Sniff said, was the only member of the Palm Springs City Council to reach out and ask him questions about the controversial questionnaire.
Contrary to what Middleton hoped — and believed — the fact is, PSPOA did not interview both candidates.
“”The PSPOA did not interview me or even touch bases with me, nor has any other POA, including Riverside Sheriff’s Association (RSA),” Sniff said. “ In the past, RSA always interviewed candidates for sheriff. This massive $1.2 million RSA “campaign of revenge” goes clear back to 2015 when the county dueled with then-RSA President Robert Masson over body cameras, was told ‘no’ by the Sheriff when RSA attempted to “dictate” public policy issues to the agency, and he soon thereafter began soliciting 2018 opponents with a promised $1 million “bounty” to remove the sheriff from office in 2018. “
The RSA president then also formally imposed the union “hometown rule” on allied law enforcement POAs to bring them into line with RSA’s own posture — all done by the unions’ leadership alone, without input of their members, Sniff said.
Finally in 2017, even the Riverside County Board of Supervisors decided, after testy negotiations that dragged on for more than 18 months with no progress in working with RSA, to ultimately impose a tough labor contract on that union.
“This is all a ‘campaign of revenge’ for simply standing up to RSA leadership’s futile attempts to bully the sheriff, as well as Riverside County, into making poor public policy decisions and for their demands for additional monies the county simply does not have at this point,” Sniff told Uken Report.