Those cooperative relationships are extraordinary, Bolanos said. Agencies in other counties do cooperate, "but not to the same degree that we do," he said. "It's the culture of our county and our law enforcement agencies. ... People immediately look to help each other."
A good example, he said, was the response to the April 3 shooting attack at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno. "Every agency (in the county) sent someone to the incident," Bolanos said. "In San Mateo County, it's the norm."
After school programs are a key community relations component, he said. One example he pointed to is the county's Sheriffs Activities League, which provides activities for students when they are most vulnerable to drugs, crime and the influence of gangs: in the interval between the end of the school day and the arrival of their parents from work.
Bolanos said he wants to continue the county's efforts to provide released inmates with "progressive" programs designed to help their transition back into society. The jail is a partner with the nonprofit JobTrain in Menlo Park, for example, a relationship that has had "many success stories," lately by finding inmates jobs during the boom in construction in the Bay Area, he said.
Bolanos is an appointed incumbent — a majority on the Board of Supervisors appointed him in July 2016 — and elections for sheriff in the Bay Area are essentially always won by incumbents, records show. The Almanac asked Bolanos for a comment.
"I guess people tend to feel comfortable with the sheriff that they have," he said.
Asked to comment via email, Melville said that many people are unaware that the sheriff is elected. He said in conversations he's had, "most city folks thought that only those who live in the unincorporated areas voted for the sheriff." As for incumbents often running unopposed, potential challengers "feel the incumbent is entrenched and can't be beat," he said. "The blind endorsements of those in office is very evident of the 'entrenched' belief."
"I disagree with Deputy Sheriff Melville that they are blind endorsements," Bolanos said via email. "I believe that they are endorsing the person they feel is the most qualified and experienced to be sheriff."
"I think that there are a lot of people who know that they can elect their sheriff," he said. "I have raised over $350,000 and received more than 300 endorsements from law enforcement professionals, elected officials and community leaders."
Training an issue?
Reports from around the country document uses of excessive force by law enforcement officers. The Almanac asked the sheriff about whether such incidents have occurred in San Mateo County, and if so whether they are being addressed through training.
Bolanos said he could recall just one incident in recent years, by a corrections officer in the jail.
In response, Melville recalled another in which a deputy with a K-9 in Half Moon Bay allowed the dog to bite an elderly couple who had gone behind a fenced construction site looking for a cat. A court case found the deputy and the county liable. "More (and) better training" is the answer, Melville said.
Asked to comment, Bolanos said he did not agree with the court on that case. "My deputy sheriffs and correctional officers perform a dangerous and complex job on a daily basis," he said. "In this case, deputies responded to an alarm company report of a commercial burglary, arrived on scene, and encountered individuals who did not comply with their verbal commands."
Deputies also had reason to believe that a felony was in progress, he said. "The canine was deployed. I stand by the actions of my personnel," he said.
As for training to handle such incidents without excessive force, "everyone knows the sensitivity of that topic," Bolanos said and noted the widespread use of cameras in jail common areas. "We're in a business in which force sometimes must be used, but we look at all uses of force very seriously."
While everyone is taking Critical Incident Training (CIT), Melville said in an email, "there needs to be more training, especially in the area of Active Shooters, like we just witnessed in San Bruno. Cross training needs to occur with every allied agency and our fire departments."
In an emailed rebuttal, Bolanos noted that CIT "actually stands for Crisis Intervention Training" and is meant to provide deputies with tools to deal with people having a mental health crisis. Deputies received active-shooter training recently as did some community members, he said.
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