30 Year Monterey County Sheriff’s Department Veteran Runs For Top Job
Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal has decided not to run for re-election, opening the door for two candidates with different backgrounds. Marina Police Chief Tina Nieto is running against Joe Moses, a captain in the Monterey County Sheriff Department assigned to the jail. He has worked for the department for almost three decades.
I spoke with him at KAZU studios on the CSU Monterey Bay campus. He explained that unlike city police departments, only about a third of the sheriff’s department is devoted to patrols and traditional crime fighting. The bulk of the department’s efforts go to what Moses called mandated services, such as the jail. Half of the sheriff’s workforce is employed at the jail, which represents half of the department’s budget.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Joe Moses (JM): We also have a civil division. So any kind of court services, you get a subpoena or you get a notification from the courts, that's served by the sheriff's office no matter if you're in the city or in the county.
Also the coroner’s division. We are responsible for all unattended deaths in Monterey County. So somebody that has not seen a physician in a while and they pass away, we're responsible for that investigation
Doug McKnight (DM): You have a letter on your website, you as a 7-year-old talking about becoming a police officer. What was it that made you decide to go into law enforcement?
JM: I've always wanted to help people. I think I have a lot of compassion. When I was looking into the field in high school and college, (I asked) how can I help my community in the best way possible? And this is the reason why I chose this profession. And I've been lucky enough to work with the Monterey County Sheriff's Office my entire career.
DM: The Sheriff’s Department is facing allegations of sexual harassment and an allegation that that a head of the Special Operations took medication that was supposed to go to inmates. Obviously, both allegations are still being investigated. In the meantime, what do you do about the perception the department is being mismanaged?
JM: Well, we need to take a strong stand, as I did with the sexual harassment. I knew that by taking a strong stand that it might cost me a little bit politically, but it's the right thing to do. And that's what I've done my entire career. My opponent said she (would) have to read the report from the Civil Rights Office (and decide) whether she would keep the individual in her executive management team. My answer is no, it's not going to happen. I don't need to read the report. It was done by an oversight committee, which is the Civil Rights Office. I'm going to go with their recommendations.
DM: If the allegations are true, clearly there was a breakdown someplace. Do you feel there was a breakdown of policies or are those policies and procedures out of date?
JM: I think our policies and procedures that are in place are good as long as they're followed. When we have a breach at such a high level in the sheriff's office, you know, it's hard to say those policies and procedures worked.
If I was sheriff, as soon as I was given information the investigation had started, we would have taken action to stop that behavior right then and there. Whether it's putting somebody out on administrative leave or removing them, you need to stop the behavior. You can't just sit back and wait and see what happens with the investigation. Let's make sure the behavior stops and then we'll do the investigation to see if disciplinary action is needed.
DM: The county Board of Supervisors has proposed an oversight committee for the sheriff’s office. How do you feel about an oversight committee and how would you work with the Board of Supervisors?
JM: I believe that we need to have oversight of all of our political figures. I'm totally in support of that. The question that I asked each Board of Supervisors member when I met with them was what is the purpose? I don't want to create an oversight committee just to have another oversight committee. The Department of Justice has oversight. The Bureau of State and Community Corrections has oversight. We have the grand jury that comes in. We have a peace officer, standards and training. We have all of these things that are oversight.
So after I spoke with all five board members about this, they voted to put it off for about a year, because oversight costs money and manpower. So let's make sure that we take a look at this and we're going about it in an intelligent way.
KAZU News also interviewed Joe Moses's opponent Tina Nieto. Nieto is the Marina chief of police.