Q&A with sheriff candidate Jim Cooper
The duel between two Sacramento County sheriff’s captains is nearly over.
Local voters will choose one of two candidates in the Nov. 2 election to replace outgoing Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness. Sacramento County Sheriff Capt. Jim Cooper is in the final stretch of his runoff campaign against Sheriff Capt. Scott Jones.
Cooper, who is also an Elk Grove City Council member, sat down with The Sacramento Press on Thursday afternoon to discuss his ideas and qualifications for the sheriff’s post.
The Sacramento Press has asked for an interview with Jones, and aims to talk to him before Election Day.
SP: In your view, what are a few of the most pressing public safety problems in the county?
JC: I think number one is patrol services. We laid off 122 deputies in August 2009. We’re getting 50 back. But that still leaves a hole of 72 officers still missing in patrol. That’s critical … because we want to protect our children.
[The Sheriff’s Department] has been over-budget. I think everybody out in the community (is) making do with less. They aren’t going out as much, not spending as much money. And here we are, we’ve overspent our budget. And that’s not right either.
We need to live within our means as a public agency.
It’s all about protecting our children … For the last two and a half years, I’ve been the commander of the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force. We do all the Internet crimes against children investigations. Those are all the child pornography investigations for Northern California. So, if you’re downloading or trading child pornography, we come after you and arrest you.
SP: What is your strategy for how the Sheriff’s Department should work with neighborhoods?
JC: You’ve got to get out there in the neighborhoods and know those neighborhoods. And part of that problem is, we’ve lost our service centers. We had community service centers in every neighborhood in Sacramento. We closed those and shut most of those down. Our citizen volunteers – most of those folks staff those service centers. We’ve got to rely more upon those folks in doing that.
(Before the cuts), citizens could go to the service centers and get their issues addressed, especially with the community-oriented-policing (COP) officers. We lost all of our COP officers, and we don’t have them anymore. That’s vital to have those folks out in the community.
SP: What are a few key differences between you and your opponent, Scott Jones?
JC: I’ve worked patrol; I’ve worked narcotics/gangs. As far as being a captain, I’ve commanded every major division in the Sheriff’s Department. So, I’ve got the experience.
Number 2, I’m a city councilman down in Elk Grove. I’m in my 10th year – my third term. I’ve been mayor twice. We set aside $13 million when we saw the economy getting bad. We’ve had no layoffs (at) our police department – none whatsoever. I’ve got the experience of going back to Washington, D.C., and bringing money back here for local projects in Elk Grove. Approximately $120 million in federal funding I helped bring back.
And I have relationships with our congressional delegation in Washington. He doesn’t have that – he’s never had relationships with those folks.
SP: What would be your top three priorities as sheriff?
JC: To get more officers back on the street.
To re-implement the grant-writing unit. And that was part of our problem – we got rid our grant-writing unit. And over where I am, in high-tech crimes, we’re about 70 or 80 percent grant funded. It’s important to have that grant-writing unit. And last year, we lost out on some federal grants. The Sacramento Police Department got $9 million in federal funding. They had no layoffs.
Third one is more community collaboration. We don’t talk with the community enough and collaborate with them. Sacramento is a big county, and each community has different needs and different problems. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach. So, you’ve got to reach out there and establish community councils to deal with problems in specific areas.
Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.