In 2007, Sheriff Stan Sniff was appointed Riverside County’s chief law enforcement after Sheriff Bob Doyle joined the state parole board in 2007. Sheriff Sniff received more than 60 percent of the vote when he won a full four-year term in 2010. He was re-elected in 2014 and is seeking re-election in November.
Sniff is the 13th sheriff of Riverside County.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is the second largest Sheriff’s Department in California.
Uken Report reached out to Sheriff Sniff and Lt. Chad Bianco, who is challenging him in the Nov. 6 General Election, with series of questions. Both men are Republicans. Bianco has not responded.
Following are Uken Report’s questions and Sheriff Sniff’s responses.
Uken Report (UR): What does the Second Amendment mean to you?
Sheriff Sniff: Part of our Bill of Rights that reasonably protects our rights for the ownership and possession of firearms, including those used for our legitimate recreational shooting sports and self-protection. Permits the reasonable and fair access to be issued concealed weapon (CCW) permits with California, but subjects residents to any applicable state statutes, and also subject to the issuing discretion of city police chiefs and county sheriffs, and based upon both good cause and good moral character. Any applicants are subject to careful screening by legal authorities, and not everyone is entitled automatically to be issued a CCW. CCWs are not a requirement to purchase or own a firearm in California, and certain individuals are banned by law from possessing firearms.
UR: What is the biggest misconception your opponent is portraying to the public through his ad campaign?
Sheriff Sniff: That he has the support of the rank-and-file of our law enforcement agencies. He has the support, including financial, of ONLY the unions’ leaders, without benefit of union member input secured through the Riverside Sheriff’s Association formal “imposition of the union “hometown rule” a few years ago. Nor does he have the support of current or retired law enforcement executives. My opponent simply represents a small group of union leaders in their effort to take over and run the Sheriff’s Department, as well as Riverside County.
UR: Were 30,000 inmates really released early from Riverside County jail? Why? If so, what kinds of criminals were released?
Sheriff Sniff: Riverside County has been under a federal court order for unconstitutional local jail overcrowding now for decades, which has impacted Sheriff-after-Sheriff as the County continues even today to wrestle with grossly inadequate jail capacity. Although the Board of Supervisors controls funding for adding any additional jail capacity to avoid that unconstitutional overcrowding, the federal court judges actual hold the elected Sheriff responsible to the court for never allowing our Riverside County jail system to exceed that state-rated capacity. If the inmate population exceeds that rated capacity, the Sheriff is directed by the federal court to immediately release inmates to get back down to that lawful rated capacity. This has been going now on since 1993, as Riverside County’s jail capacity has continued to lag far behind where we should be in keeping up with our county’s explosive population growth. When AB 109 Realignment was passed into law in 2011, changing the role of our county jails throughout California, this dramatically increased the constitutional overcrowding challenge for Riverside County, forcing “early releases” ordered by the federal court order to nearly 50,000, between 2011 to 2018. The only answer is to add additional new local jail capacity, and to carefully micromanage our inmate population, so that only the least dangerous to our communities are early released. Defying the federal court order against unconstitutional conduct simply would invite the federal courts to immediately seize control of our County jail operations to force their court directives, and worse, to then seize control of Riverside County spending.
UR: What are your specific plans to open the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio?
The Benoit Detention Center (JBDC) to be fully opened, requires over 400 new staff positions of every type to hired, trained and then added to the Sheriff’s workforce. The County’s fiscal predicament over the past few years has precluded the original hiring state-certified hiring plan that was to be phased in over three years, well prior to construction completion of JBDC in early 2019. Just a few months ago, at the start of the current fiscal year, the Board of Supervisors finally approved limited additional funding to be added to the Sheriff’s budget to finally begin the hiring of just a few of those required positions, that when added to our current Indio jail staff that are already on board, will now allow us to at least partially open the JBDC in early 2019. The speed with which the JBDC will be fully opened, adding much-needed new inmate capacity and reducing our overcrowding and federal court-ordered early releases, will take a number of years, and only as additional funding is made available to the Sheriff to add the required new staffing to our payroll.
UR: How will you ensure there is never a cheating scandal in the department, again?
Sheriff Sniff: The Sheriff’s Department routinely investigates criminal and administrative misconduct, and metes out appropriate discipline, though much of that actual information is protected by law, and Sheriffs and police chiefs are expected to uphold those laws and statutes and avoid the legal sanctions that can be imposed by the courts. This incident was dealt with appropriately years ago and appropriate disciplines were meted out that were each legally proportional and defensible by our county attorneys, and each discipline was dependent upon the misconducts individually involved. In addition, and immediately at the time, the “suspect” portions of the testing process were discarded, and replaced by fresh testing component, so that the integrity of the civil service promotion tests remained completely intact. In addition, the Riverside County Grand Jury — an outside independent public watchdog review authority — later reviewed that entire investigation, the findings and disciplines meted out, and found no issues to criticize the department’s handling or our disciplinary process on that incident. This older incident surfaced during an election year long afterwards, for dubious reasons.
UR: What is the significance of the department’s largest union supporting and bankrolling Lt. Bianco?
Sheriff Sniff: The primary significance is that this has been a “campaign of revenge” by that union’s leadership in response to the sheriff telling them “no” in their attempts to bully and dictate public safety policy on policy body-worn cameras, mandatory blood draws on deputies involved in deadly force incidents and other issues of employee diversity, agency transparency and in holding our employees accountable. The union’s leaders in RSA have contributed $1 million and imposed “hometown rule” to other police unions for additional fiscal support that altogether now totals $1.2 million, roughly 90 percent of his funding, and being spent to falsely smear the Sheriff in various attack ads in order to take over the department and install someone who is completely unqualified for the position and that will simply rubber-stamp union leadership’s dictates in running our county’s largest and most critical law enforcement agency.
Sheriff Sniff: Interestingly, this massive, record-setting campaign funding came from only the union’s leadership, not with input from any by their members. Even more interesting, the agency union representing the sergeants, lieutenants and captains — the ones that actually manage the department’s daily operations — was also “bullied” by same RSA leader in his attempt to wreak revenge on the Sheriff for not submitting to their demands. Clearly this race is fundamentally about “who is going to run” the Sheriff’s Department after Nov 6: the Sheriff elected by the people of Riverside or one “rogue” union’s leadership that also recently had to be forcibly “imposed upon” during its equally contentious negotiations for a labor contract by our Riverside County Board of Supervisors.
UR: What qualifications do you have to be sheriff – and along those lines, what makes you the better person for the job?
Sheriff Sniff: In addition to many years in law enforcement rising through the ranks, I have uniquely many years in Captain-level command positions in a patrol station, as a jail commander, and as the commander of a multi-agency regional training center for police, fire and paramedic emergency first-responder training. For the past two decades after those command assignments, I have served as an executive as a Chief Deputy overseeing groups of captains and as an Assistant Sheriff where I represented three different elected Sheriff’s in agency policy, disciplinary matters, and department-wide budget management at the agencies highest levels. I have both BA and an MA college degrees, graduated from the POST Executive Development Course for CA police chiefs, as well as the FBI National Executive Institute (NEI). I have now spent the past 11 years as your Sheriff, our county’s chief law enforcement officer, setting forth public policy by working closely with the County CEO and Fiscal Officer, and directly working with the Board of Supervisors, and our allied law enforcement agency heads. In the face of severe County fiscal challenges, due to my longtime overall budget and fiscal expertise, we were able to end each fiscal year in “balance,” through managed workforce downsizing, in working through the massive budgets cuts we sustained over two successive fiscal years that together exceeded $72 million. As Sheriff we have created an expert and sophisticated executive team that has increased diversity, educational and training levels in the department, as well as blending in technological gains for those on the front lines to better serve our public.