By Arturo Castañares
An internal survey conducted by the San Diego’s Deputy Sheriffs’ union shows many hold extreme political views, including calling leadership decisions “Marxist”, referring to Black Lives Matter and Antifa as “domestic terrorist groups”, and staunch opposition to COVID vaccine mandates, but the respondents showed no support for police reforms or progressive approaches to policing advocated since the killing of George Floyd and protests in several US cities.
The survey, conducted by the San Diego County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, seems intended to gauge the views of the over 2,400 sworn deputies of the employee union, but it appears that less than 10% of the members responded with only 238 votes being cast.
According to long-time Deputies, this is the first time that members have been polled to determine their stance of issues related to an upcoming election for Sheriff.
The survey is informative in that the responses were provided directly by deputies in their own words.
The thrust of the questions seem to be related to the upcoming election to replace retiring Sheriff Bill Gore, asking deputies their opinions on issues affecting the race to select the next Sheriff.
The first question asked members what they believe is the single greatest issue facing the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
Responses ranged from “staffing”, “wokeness and defunding police”, “morale”, and the “unrealistic expectations regarding the use of force.”
One respondent said the greatest issue is “the potential for forced vax and protection from Liberal extremists in Government and their overreaching policies”, while another lamented the “left leaning narrative controlled by a small, but loud, minority of people that include things like Defund The Police, 8 Can’t Wait, and other anti-law enforcement narratives.”
8 Can’t Wait refers to eight reform measures promoted by Campaign Zero aimed at reducing police shootings.
Several deputies said vaccine mandates are the greatest issue facing their department, while others complained of the lack of support from command staff.
One respondent said that “Marxist ideology influencing command decisions” is the greatest issue facing the Sheriff’s Department.
The second question asked for the single most important issue that will affect their voting decision for Sheriff, and again many cited opposition to a vaccine mandate and support for deputies against political pressure for changes.
“A Sheriff who is willing to push-back on reforms, when those reforms have a negative impact on my ability to support my family (losing qualified immunity),” one respondent wrote. “Also pushing back on reforms that can affect my ability to be safe (changing our current [Use of Force] policy.)”
Several comments referenced Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco as an example of the kind of leader the deputies want in San Diego. Bianco has been criticized for excess deaths in his jails and rejecting calls for reforming his department. Bianco is a former member of the Oath Keepers and has been called out for supporting and defending the far-right group.
“We need a Sheriff like the Riverside county Sheriff Chad Bianco”, “having a sheriff that doesn’t pander to the masses/ media/ governor (see Riverside Sheriff for example)”, and “See Riverside County Sheriff for the right way to be a sheriff” were among the responses.
Another respondent cited “Civil rights groups and how the department responds”.
A few comments were concerned about “Succumbing to the liberal agenda of the San Diego county board of supervisors” and “Liberal democrats and their majority on the county board of supervisors.”
Another respondent was more to the point.
“If they are a Democrat I will not vote for them.”
The survey also asked members to rank the importance of certain topics in influencing which candidate they would support for Sheriff, ranging from 5 for “extremely important” to 1 for “not important at all”.
For a candidate “Preventing a vaccination mandate”, 59% said it was extremely important, while only 15% said it was not important at all on their voting decision.
For a candidate “Increasing diversity within the Department’, only 7% rated it extremely important and 38% rated it not important at all.
And 71% said a candidate “Ensuring adequate staffing within the Department” was extremely important, but no one thought it is not important at all.
The final question asked which of the four current candidates they would support if the election were held today, and the leading candidate seems to be current Undersheriff Kelly Martinez.
52% of the survey respondents supported Martinez, but 33% were undecided. 10% support John Hemmerling, an Assistant San Diego City Attorney, 3% support retired Sheriff’s Commander Dave Myers, and 3% support Sheriff Deputy Kenneth Newsom.
Martinez, the first woman to ever hold the highest non-elected position in the Sheriff’s Department, is endorsed by Gore and several high-profile elected officials in the region, including all three Democratic members of the County Board of Supervisors.
Undersheriff Martinez declared her candidacy to replace Gore just days after he announced he would not seek a fourth term next year, but she had already filed her official candidate forms with the Registrar of Voters two days before Gore’s announcement. Gore immediately endorsed Martinez.
In addition to the endorsements of the Supervisors, Martinez is also endorsed by Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Democratic State Senate President Toni Atkins.
Although Martinez is now a registered Democrat, she re-registered from Republican just two days after the last election in November. Before that, Martinez had been a Republican for more than 20 years.
One of the comments seems to criticize Martinez for her recent political party change.
“Integrity. If you change your political affiliation prior to an election so you can have county supervisors endorse you, you lost me. I don’t care how long you’ve been a Deputy. I don’t trust you. I want someone who stands by their convictions, not a pandering politician.”
The survey was conducted through an online questionnaire sent out to all deputies. The results have only been reviewed by a few leaders within the union and are expected to be discussed at this week’s meeting of its board of directors.