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Marina Police Chief Runs For Monterey County Sheriff

Marina Police Chief Tina Nieto is running to become Monterey County Sheriff.
Marina Police Chief Tina Nieto is running to become Monterey County Sheriff.

The Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in Monterey County and the only law enforcement officer that is elected. Sheriff Steve Bernal has decided not to seek re-election. The two candidates running to replace him come from different backgrounds.

Marina Police Chief Tina Nieto is running against Joe Moses, an employee of the Monterey County Sheriff’s department for almost 30 years.I spoke with her at the KAZU studios on the CSU Monterey Bay campus.

During the interview, we talked about her background, issues facing the Sheriff’s Department and what it is like to run for office for the very first time.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tina Nieto (TN): I have a lot of respect now for anybody who runs for any office. You have to really love what you're doing, love helping people, but there has to be that driving force.

I've been a public servant my entire adult life. I was in the military before I became a police officer, so service in my heart. My parents really taught us a strong value system of serving our community.

Maybe it is because we grew up poor and when you're poor, you can't help your communities by writing checks. I appreciate people that do that. But, when you grow up in poor families, if you're helping your community, you give your time and your labor. I come from a big Hispanic family of four sisters, one brother, and we were all very involved.

Doug McKnight (DM): Why do you want to be sheriff?

TN: I'm going to be a great sheriff for you. And I do want to be the sheriff. But my journey to sheriff wasn't your traditional journey to running for sheriff.

I'm also the president of the Monterey County Chiefs Association. So I know all the police chiefs and all the heads of the agencies up and down this beautiful county. And collectively, as chiefs, we would talk and we just believe that the Sheriff could move in a better direction

DM: What do you mean by better direction?

TN: In many counties, your sheriff's department is like the big brother or big sister to the smaller agencies. Our sheriff's department just operates a little bit differently. You know, I'm a professional. I've not stood in the shoes of our current sheriff. I just know myself as a leader. I would do things differently, building collaborative leadership teams (and) talking to other chiefs to better communicate about what's going on (in the) county as a whole.

DM: The sheriff's department currently is facing some controversies; allegations of sexual harassment, allegations of misuse of medications meant for inmates. How would you, as a new sheriff, convince the public that things are under control?

TN: So, first of all, to the victims out there, I'm just very, very sorry this happened to you. No one should ever have to work in a workplace that they feel preyed upon and don't feel safe.

One of my plans is to surround myself with people who share my values of integrity, honesty, transparency, and collaborative approaches to things.

I've heard that, oh well, you know, the policies and procedures are already in place. But apparently there are people that feel it's okay not to follow them and that's a culture thing. Whatever is going on there, people think it's okay, or at least these people that have been alleged to do these things feel like it's okay, that they can do it and the culture should not be that way.

DM: Speaking of accountability, the Board of Supervisors proposed an oversight committee for the sheriff's office. Would you be in favor of that?

TN: From the very beginning, I was the first person who said I support an oversight committee. I think no matter who's the sheriff, there needs to be oversight.

You keep hearing the fact that there's already oversight, but no, there's not. There (are) groups that can come in and write reports about the sheriff and then the sheriff can say: thank you, have a nice day and nothing changes.

If you set up oversight the right way, they have subpoena powers, they can look at things in a direction that the community wants to move in. I don't think anybody should have so much power that they're not accountable to anybody. I hear the you're an a politician, so you're accountable to the voters. I get that. But we're in law enforcement, too. And we can't wait every four years to be accountable.

That was Marina Police Chief Tina Nieto. She is running for
Sheriff of Monterey County.

KAZU News also interviewed Joe Moses, Nieto's opponent for the sheriff's office. Find that interview here.

Doug joined KAZU in 2004 as Development Director overseeing fundraising and grants. He was promoted to General Manager in 2009 and is currently retired and working part time in membership fundraising and news reporting at KAZU.
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