As the March election nears, four candidates have stepped up to fill the position of Santa Barbara County Sheriff in a hard-fought campaign amidst contentious endorsements.
Santa Barbara Police Dept. Detective Rodger Aceves, Sheriff’s Dept. Commander Jim Anderson, Sheriff’s Dept. Lt. Butch Arnoldi and former Sheriff’s Dept. Under-Sheriff Dave Dorsey are all competing for the job.
Aceves is a 24-year law enforcement veteran and a major crime investigator for the SBPD. He has received endorsements from the UCSB Campus Democrats and the Democratic Central Committee of Santa Barbara. He said the county needs different and more direct leadership.
“If elected, I plan to focus on community policing,” he said. “I want to take into account the priorities of the community. I want to make the Sheriff’s Dept. more involved in Isla Vista.”
Arnoldi is a UCSB alumnus and a 27-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Dept. He is currently the station manager in Carpenteria and previously served as station manager for the Isla Vista Foot Patrol and as a deputy in North and South County. Arnoldi said his commitment to hard work and an honest work ethic distinguishes him from the other candidates.
“I have done the job of day-to-day work for some time. I believe in community involvement. I received support from the community at large when I worked in Isla Vista. I am known to be fair and I’m willing to have an open dialogue with the community,” Arnoldi said.
Arnoldi said that as Sheriff, his goals would include increasing patrol staffing and enhancing career development for officers.
Anderson, a 26-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Dept., is one of nine commanders in the county. Anderson said he is the only candidate in the race who has worked for every county Sheriff’s station.
“I plan to improve community policing and emphasize education in local high schools by developing a high school program similar to D.A.R.E., a drug education program for youths. I also want to collaborate with a group in Isla Vista to improve public safety. A better system of community policing is necessary in order to improve policing in I.V.,” he said.
The Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (DSA), a group of 430 Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. employees of various ranks, has endorsed Anderson for the election. DSA president Jim Burke said the group sent ballots to 424 members, 321 of which were returned with 205 votes for Anderson.
“Our endorsement will let people know who workers in the Sheriff’s Dept. want as Sheriff. We hold the right to support a candidate in the election since we are an independent organization,” Burke said.
Other candidates, however, have expressed doubts about the validity of the DSA’s endorsement.
Arnoldi said the endorsements by organizations are misleading and can confuse voters.
“The general public doesn’t receive the whole story. The public must educate themselves. Between 20 and 22 percent of the DSA doesn’t reside in the county, and they won’t vote in the actual election for Sheriff,” Arnoldi said.
Aceves said he was ill-informed about the DSA’s endorsement procedure.
“The DSA announced a process and kept changing the rules. I have not had access to information from the DSA since I am not a member of the organization,” Aceves said.
Dorsey, the fourth candidate, is a 27-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Dept. and president of the Ben Page Youth Center, a community-funded sports program that gives youths an alternative to drugs. Dorsey said his campaign is focused on reforming youth education in an effort to decrease crime in the county. Dorsey said he plans on expanding the D.A.R.E. program and increasing officer involvement in schools.
“I have seen the negative side of teenage life, like problems at home and drugs. We need to enhance prevention programs in schools and provide more opportunities for youth to participate in the community,” he said.
The Association of Sheriff Managers and Executives, which is led by Sheriff Jim Thomas, endorsed Dorsey. The organization was created in order to represent the views of managers and executives in the Sheriff’s Dept. who do not receive a vote in the DSA election. Commander Deborah Linden, one of the 17 executives endorsing Dorsey, said voters are entitled to know the opinion of people in the department who work more closely with the sheriff.
“We think that our voice should be heard. We got together as a group before the DSA released their endorsement. The creation of the organization is not a reaction to Dorsey not receiving support from the DSA,” Linden said.
Thomas said Dorsey has the most extensive experience of the four candidates.
“[The Association of Sheriff Managers and Executives] look at the candidates from one perspective while the members of the DSA look at it from another. Endorsements help people decide who to vote for if they are uncertain,” Thomas said.