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Editorial: Kevin Jensen for Sheriff

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office in San Jose on May 17, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

After almost 25 years serving as Santa Clara County sheriff and many unsuccessful attempts to defeat her at the ballot box, Laurie Smith is finally on her way out.

By fluke of timing, a jury is currently hearing the civil case of misconduct and perjury against her, while voters will be deciding which of two candidates with almost identical last names can best restore public confidence and employee morale in this important law enforcement agency.

Former Palo Alto Police Chief Bob Jonsen, 59, promotes himself as the outsider who can bring needed reforms to the sheriff's department. He served as police chief in Menlo Park for five years until being hired by Palo Alto four years ago, resigning this summer to run for sheriff. Prior to moving to Menlo Park, Jonsen was a captain with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department overseeing Lancaster, a low-income community where there has been much controversy over police misconduct before, during and after Jonsen's tenure.

Kevin Jensen. Courtesy Kevin Jensen.

Jonsen is facing former Santa Clara County sheriff's captain Kevin Jensen, 58, who left the department in 2013 fed up with Smith's leadership and ran against her unsuccessfully in 2014. For the last 12 years he has publicly worked to expose her dysfunctional management. Since leaving the department, Jensen has been consulting and teaching for police departments, including conducting ethics training to new recruits and managers at other agencies. Although much of the command staff has turned over since he worked there, he says he has maintained his contacts with those who remain and will be able to quickly assemble a team that is eager to reform the department and jail operations and put an end to the oppressive and autocratic leadership style of Sheriff Smith.

Jensen has the overwhelming support of law enforcement and other labor organizations and PACs and has received more than $700,000 in direct and indirect support, according to campaign finance reports released at the end of September. Jonsen, on the other hand, has had to rely mostly on individual donations. His campaign has directly raised roughly half of the $240,000 of Jensen's campaign.

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It is concerning, but not surprising, that the unions would prefer the candidate who came up through the ranks and is thoroughly familiar with the controversies that Smith created and the angst it created for most rank and file deputies.

As we did in the primary in June, we recommend Kevin Jensen as the better choice. While not as good a talker or self-promoter as Jonsen, we think the task of fixing the problems Smith is leaving behind is urgent. Changes in personnel and management practices can't wait for the time it will take Jonsen to learn the complexities of both the county jail operation and the sheriff's office and earn the trust and confidence of the unions.

We also are troubled by some of Jonsen's campaign rhetoric. For example, he declared that he was "the only Democrat in the race" (Jensen says he is an independent) but declined to explain its relevance in a nonpartisan election or why he made the statement. He touted that he had been endorsed by elected officials in 87% of the cities in the county, leading a voter to think he meant that 87% of the elected officials were supporting him over Jensen. In reality, he simply has at least one elected official in 13 of the 15 cities in the county endorsing him, hardly a persuasive statistic. (Voters should take note that Jonsen's predecessor as Palo Alto police chief, Dennis Burns, has endorsed Jensen, pointing to his honesty, integrity and ethical leadership.)

And Jonsen has repeatedly described Jensen as "retired," even though he is not retired and operates his own consulting business.

Jonsen has presented himself in this race as an innovative police reformer who embraces public accountability, oversight and transparency. But that is not the record he built as chief in Palo Alto. He chose to eliminate the department's public information position, blocked the media from accessing his command staff to obtain information on criminal incidents and required reporters to submit questions through an online form, unilaterally encrypted all radio communications, delayed responding to public records requests and made no effort to publicize what he now says were public meetings of his citizens advisory committee.

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Jonsen and Jensen are both experienced law enforcement veterans and either could competently run the jail and sheriff's department. But these operations urgently need effective new leadership, and Jensen's history with both, along with the support he's received from the unions, best equips him to regain the trust of the 1,700 employees and the public. By contrast, it could take months, if not years, for Jonsen to learn the complexities of the operation and build needed new relationships.

The next sheriff will face a monumental challenge to improve transparency, accountability and communication after Smith's years of mismanagement. Jensen is the best qualified candidate to make that happen.

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Editorial: Kevin Jensen for Sheriff

by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Oct 14, 2022, 6:54 am

After almost 25 years serving as Santa Clara County sheriff and many unsuccessful attempts to defeat her at the ballot box, Laurie Smith is finally on her way out.

By fluke of timing, a jury is currently hearing the civil case of misconduct and perjury against her, while voters will be deciding which of two candidates with almost identical last names can best restore public confidence and employee morale in this important law enforcement agency.

Former Palo Alto Police Chief Bob Jonsen, 59, promotes himself as the outsider who can bring needed reforms to the sheriff's department. He served as police chief in Menlo Park for five years until being hired by Palo Alto four years ago, resigning this summer to run for sheriff. Prior to moving to Menlo Park, Jonsen was a captain with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department overseeing Lancaster, a low-income community where there has been much controversy over police misconduct before, during and after Jonsen's tenure.

Jonsen is facing former Santa Clara County sheriff's captain Kevin Jensen, 58, who left the department in 2013 fed up with Smith's leadership and ran against her unsuccessfully in 2014. For the last 12 years he has publicly worked to expose her dysfunctional management. Since leaving the department, Jensen has been consulting and teaching for police departments, including conducting ethics training to new recruits and managers at other agencies. Although much of the command staff has turned over since he worked there, he says he has maintained his contacts with those who remain and will be able to quickly assemble a team that is eager to reform the department and jail operations and put an end to the oppressive and autocratic leadership style of Sheriff Smith.

Jensen has the overwhelming support of law enforcement and other labor organizations and PACs and has received more than $700,000 in direct and indirect support, according to campaign finance reports released at the end of September. Jonsen, on the other hand, has had to rely mostly on individual donations. His campaign has directly raised roughly half of the $240,000 of Jensen's campaign.

It is concerning, but not surprising, that the unions would prefer the candidate who came up through the ranks and is thoroughly familiar with the controversies that Smith created and the angst it created for most rank and file deputies.

As we did in the primary in June, we recommend Kevin Jensen as the better choice. While not as good a talker or self-promoter as Jonsen, we think the task of fixing the problems Smith is leaving behind is urgent. Changes in personnel and management practices can't wait for the time it will take Jonsen to learn the complexities of both the county jail operation and the sheriff's office and earn the trust and confidence of the unions.

We also are troubled by some of Jonsen's campaign rhetoric. For example, he declared that he was "the only Democrat in the race" (Jensen says he is an independent) but declined to explain its relevance in a nonpartisan election or why he made the statement. He touted that he had been endorsed by elected officials in 87% of the cities in the county, leading a voter to think he meant that 87% of the elected officials were supporting him over Jensen. In reality, he simply has at least one elected official in 13 of the 15 cities in the county endorsing him, hardly a persuasive statistic. (Voters should take note that Jonsen's predecessor as Palo Alto police chief, Dennis Burns, has endorsed Jensen, pointing to his honesty, integrity and ethical leadership.)

And Jonsen has repeatedly described Jensen as "retired," even though he is not retired and operates his own consulting business.

Jonsen has presented himself in this race as an innovative police reformer who embraces public accountability, oversight and transparency. But that is not the record he built as chief in Palo Alto. He chose to eliminate the department's public information position, blocked the media from accessing his command staff to obtain information on criminal incidents and required reporters to submit questions through an online form, unilaterally encrypted all radio communications, delayed responding to public records requests and made no effort to publicize what he now says were public meetings of his citizens advisory committee.

Jonsen and Jensen are both experienced law enforcement veterans and either could competently run the jail and sheriff's department. But these operations urgently need effective new leadership, and Jensen's history with both, along with the support he's received from the unions, best equips him to regain the trust of the 1,700 employees and the public. By contrast, it could take months, if not years, for Jonsen to learn the complexities of the operation and build needed new relationships.

The next sheriff will face a monumental challenge to improve transparency, accountability and communication after Smith's years of mismanagement. Jensen is the best qualified candidate to make that happen.

Comments

Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 14, 2022 at 12:26 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2022 at 12:26 pm

I am relieved to read this editorial and urge all Santa Clara County voters to heed your suggestion and vote for Jensen. Over the years I have heard people comment that "if so and so is elected I think I might move". That thought has crossed my mind with regard to this election.

Thank you for this editorial and the information in it regarding the former PAPD Chief.


Bob Jonsen
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 14, 2022 at 2:45 pm
Bob Jonsen, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2022 at 2:45 pm

I respect every entity’s right to endorse the candidate of their choosing. Yet, I am compelled to provide clarifying facts to better inform voters.
I am proud to be a democrat and the statement "the only Democrat in the race" is a factual one. I explained in their forum how I felt every candidate should declare their position on national issues such as abortion and gun rights -because the relevance in a nonpartisan election is the fact that national rights can become local issues to enforce (such as immigration was a few years ago). I am honored to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood and to have the Gun Sense Distinction by Moms Demand Action.
I have elected officials throughout the county ranging from local to congressional. These will be critically important as we address the major challenges confronting the organization and crime throughout our county. While I may not have Dennis Burns’ endorsement, I do have the endorsement of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Assemblymember Marc Berman, Supervisor Joe Simitian, and five of the seven Palo Alto Councilmembers - all of whom have faithfully served Palo Alto for many years. They know the work we’ve accomplished in Palo Alto over the past few years and the value it has to moving department forward.
How quickly the Weekly forget about the budget reductions of 2020 and the 32 positions the Police Department had to cut. The remaining staff worked incredibly hard to handle the existing workload while implementing the numerous changes associated with police reform. Successfully navigating through a once-in-a-century pandemic, major budget reductions, staffing shortages, police reform, implementing new systems and regulatory requirements, as well as reducing crime in each of the last three years. We continually worked on enhancing transparency, there are more accountability measures, and greater independent oversight in place today than ever before. A summary of the work can be read here:
Web Link


Moctod
Registered user
University South
on Oct 19, 2022 at 4:56 pm
Moctod, University South
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2022 at 4:56 pm

I support many of the endorsements made by the Palo Alto Weekly for the next election, but for Santa Clara County Sherff my vote goes to Bob Jonsen, who's posting above makes a good case for his election.

I was disappointed to find a very slick last-minute hit piece on Bob in my mailbox today. The mailer was paid for by the Santa Clara Correctional Officers, the Deputy Sheriffs' Association and the County Managers Association. The mailer cherry-picks two short quotes from the Daily Post and one from "L.A. Now" then adds the ineloquent remark, "That's really bad, Bob". The statements on the flip side have no citations. The groups who paid for this mailer obviously feel that they will get a better deal from another candidate.

Please vote for Bob Jonsen for Santa Clara County Sheriff.


Brian
Registered user
Stanford
on Oct 27, 2022 at 8:41 am
Brian, Stanford
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2022 at 8:41 am

Bob cited his supporters (name dropping), but neglected to say what he is going to do to change the culture of the department, to bring accountability and positive reforms that will benefit both the people who work at the department and those the department serves.

I will provide a link for those to read that shows some of Bob’s controversial relationships and issues that also sites issues in the communities he served as a leader. Is it slanted, yes, but it does display the messy political web that is woven by a sophisticated politician who knows how to navigate the murky waters of a political job and insulate himself, much like Laurie Smith has done, and Bob’s former convicted sheriff and buddy Lee Baca had done throughout most of their political careers. Kevin Jensen brings none of the political luggage Jonsen does, none of the drama, and genuinely wants to bring about positive change. Bob Jonsen had been in three leadership positions in 10 years….what do the employees and the community think of his job in those positions?

Web Link


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