Rex Bohn/for the Times-Standard
Posted: 01/30/2013 02:39:19 AM PST
As I stood in the back of the room during Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey's press conference on Thursday, I was again reminded of the high quality of work his department has produced and the sacrifices he and his staff make on a daily basis.At the press conference the sheriff answered all questions asked, and even some that weren't, and described in excruciating detail the officer-involved shooting that happened on the night of Jan. 19 in Loleta. It's mind-boggling to realize that from the time his deputy turned on his lights until the end of the chase, a total of just six minutes passed. In that short amount of time the deputy had a gun pointed at him, was nearly hit by a car, had his foot run over, fired at the vehicle, and the suspect's vehicle crashed -- twice. After investigating the officer's actions, it was determined that he acted appropriately in the situation and on Friday Deputy Conan Moore rightfully returned to duty.
This incident was the latest in a string of recent high-profile cases that the sheriff's office has handled. It was also the latest example of how his office has managed these extreme cases with the utmost professionalism, all while embracing the opportunity to allow for public scrutiny.
It should be noted that this was the first officer-involved shooting in the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office in more than two years. By holding the press conference I think Sheriff Downey showed how seriously he and his staff take these cases, and he did a great job reassuring the public that these instances are investigated by multiple agencies.These stories often grab our attention for a short time, and then they're forgotten as soon as the next paper is delivered to our door or when we visit the next website. It's nobody's fault -- there are lots of people out there who would be more than willing to tell you stories about how bad my old memory is -- but I want to take a minute to quickly run down some of the cases the sheriff's office has dealt with over the last two weeks:
Jan. 18: An 18-year old walks in front of an elementary school and is located with a shotgun above his head. Deputies detain the man, and sent him in for a mental evaluation. The principal later says that before she could lock down the school the deputies detained him and the situation was under control. Nobody is hurt.
Jan. 19: Officer-involved shooting described above.
Jan. 20: Humboldt County Sheriff's Office investigates the deaths of a man who killed his girlfriend in Oregon and shot himself in the head in Trinidad. HCSO successfully works with five other agencies in this investigation.
Jan. 20: HCSO investigates a death at Centerville Beach in Ferndale. On Wednesday, a medical examiner concludes that the individual's death was self-inflicted by a gunshot wound.
Jan. 21: HCSO initiates a search and rescue in Alton for a man reported missing. By that afternoon he is home and safe.
Jan. 23: Five HCSO volunteers and two deputies end a five-day search by finding a missing person who was reported to have medical issues. The rescued person is dehydrated and cold, and indicates she does not want to be found. HCSO expects she will make a full recovery.
The cases have gotten plenty of attention from the media and public, and while we often read about these stories to stay up on current events, it's important that we remember the folks behind the headlines. These men and women who sport the sheriff's badge risk their lives for us every day. They put their personal lives on the back burner, leaving their families at nights and on weekends to handle these high-profile cases and countless other calls for service that very few of us ever hear about.
We need to keep in mind that prison realignment (AB 109) is causing issues statewide, including Humboldt County. In addition, the sheriff's office is still operating with 17 deputies less than capacity due to a hiring freeze. Hopefully things improve, but the sheriff needs the public's support.
Despite all these hurdles, these incredibly high-stress scenarios and all the sacrifices Sheriff Downey and his staff make every day, his office has performed exceptionally well and taken a proactive approach to keeping the public informed. These events show exactly how the sheriff's office has met and exceeded our expectations, and I would like to thank them for their work.
Humboldt County's 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn can be reached at email@example.com.
May 5, 2011
Supervisor Chair Mark Lovelace
825 Fifth Street, Room 111
Eureka, CA 95501
Dear Supervisor Chair Lovelace,
We write to you in a time of particular economic and budgetary uncertainty. Humboldt County, like the rest of California, continues to struggle through the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. In addition, partisan polarization in Sacramento is stifling attempts by both the Legislature and the Governor to settle the state’s budget crisis without ravaging local government’s budgets. Meanwhile, you are responsible for crafting a Humboldt County’s budget in the middle of all of this uncertainty.
The current uncertain times require all of us to act differently. When our sheriff’s deputies negotiated their contract with the county this year, we took a different approach than in years past. By recognizing the tough economic and budgetary times, we were able to achieve a solution that respects our deputies, respects the public’s safety and also respects the County’s budget difficulties.
In the same way, we feel that budgeting approaches used by Supervisors in the past will not work this time around. Previously, Supervisors have taken an egalitarian approach, trying to share budget surpluses or budget cuts relatively equally across all sectors of the budget on the premise that equal is fair. But we are in an extremely unstable and uncertain time that requires budgeting to be done with a steady hand and a scalpel, not with a blind across-the-board budget saw.
We are asking you and every other member of the Board of Supervisors to approach this year’s budget cuts through proper prioritization of County funding based on the public need in these economic times. This year, the County government’s financial power is limited by the poor economy, and we are asking you to refocus that limited power so it can still shine brightly where it is needed most.
The 2011-2012 proposed budget cuts Humboldt County law enforcement personnel on the ground to the lowest levels on record (chart attached). These cuts will result in unprecedented and dangerously low levels of coverage. Simply put, fewer deputies patrolling the county will mean more crime.
We understand that you do not prefer this option. And we also understand that until you know the outcome of the State budget stalemate in Sacramento, you will not be able to properly make county budget commitments in Eureka. That said, we share with you a fundamental commitment and responsibility to provide for the public’s safety.
So, let us be clear: if Sacramento’s decisions over the next few weeks result in a huge revenue cut to the County’s General Fund, we expect you to exhaust every financial tool at your disposal (including a county-wide sales tax increase and/or utility tax proposal) before making a correlating cut to the number of public safety personnel on the ground in Humboldt County. County voters deserve to be asked if they want to step up and support their local law enforcement through a sales tax increase – that is exactly what voters in the City of Arcata and the City of Eureka have done in the past few years, and we think County voters should have the same opportunity.
We are available at any time to discuss this and any other budget issue – in these uncertain times, there is nothing more fundamental to public safety than smart and well informed budget decisions.
Detective Steve Quenell
President, Humboldt Deputy Sheriffs Organization
Chart - Law Enforcement Over Time
Rex Bohn/for the Times-Standard