Spotlight on Nevada County sheriff’s race: Shannan Moon, Bill Smethers discuss recidivism, jail issues (VIDEO)
The race for Nevada County sheriff never stopped after the June 5 primary.
There was a lull after Capt. Shannan Moon and Executive Lt. Bill Smethers took the top two spots in June’s election. Pushing former Grass Valley Police Chief John Foster into third place, Moon and Smethers found themselves in a two-person race headed into the Nov. 6 general election.
There have been a few candidate forums since the primary election, and campaign signs again have appeared across Nevada County. Both Moon and Smethers want to bring Foster supporters into their own respective camps, propelling themselves into the top spot at the Sheriff’s Office.
The position opens with the retirement of current sheriff Keith Royal.
Foster’s support in June came from the San Juan Ridge area and eastern Nevada County, excluding Truckee.
Moon won large portions of Grass Valley and Nevada City, along with the greater Highway 20 corridor northeast of Nevada City, as well as the city of Truckee.
Smethers took the rest — most of west and South County, excluding a sliver along Highway 49 that Moon won.
With under three weeks remaining until election day, Moon and Smethers now head into one of the most closely watched local contests this season.
Moon, 50, said her message of change in the Sheriff’s Office resonates with voters. She’s been sharing that message, telling voters what she wants to bring to the organization as its leader.
“People have seen the difference,” Moon said. “Now it’s about sharing the vision, sharing my vision.”
According to Moon, people want a Sheriff’s Office that’s more transparent and one that listens to the community. A consistent refrain she hears is that voters want an office that works in partnership with the community.
That brings Moon to her main issue — the strategic plan. The Sheriff’s Office has some 170 employees, people Moon called committed to their jobs.
“We have great employees,” she said. “It’s just that all are trying to do it their own way.
“We need to look at facilities,” Moon added moments later. “We need to look at technology.”
Moon said deputies currently must travel to a shooting range, because the Sheriff’s Office lacks one. Hand-held radios need replacing, and Moon wants five- and 10-year plans to make that a reality.
Moon said she’d release the strategic plan to the public, ensuring the office is held accountable to the people.
Fielding a question about Deputy Jason Mackey, whose links to problem search warrants became an issue in the district attorney’s race, Moon again pointed to her strategic plan. Every employee must understand their role and the rules under which they work.
Moon said that Mackey testified in a court hearing about not receiving enough training.
“Every employee should have the confidence in knowing how to do their job,” she said.
An after-action review should have occurred in Mackey’s case, Moon said. Accountability is necessary and personality conflicts must be addressed.
Asked about the elimination of cash bonds in California, Moon called an assessment for every person arrested a good thing. She wants those assessments to include the possibility of each person to re-offend and if they’ll appear for future court dates.
Moon said law enforcement should work with service providers — those who help people with substance abuse or mental health issues, for example — and get them the help they need. That could help with reducing recidivism, the frequency to re-offend.
Moon’s decision to change jail release times to 8 a.m. from 4 a.m. also has helped, as has bringing social workers into the Nevada County Jail. Those workers meet with inmates and ensure they receive the necessary services once they’re released, she said.
Many of those incarcerated locally will be released into this community. The Sheriff’s Office must improve its programs connecting inmates to services, Moon added.
“I’m running because I love Nevada County,” she said. “I absolutely know — no one’s going to work harder.”
Smethers, 51, in his campaign, has emphasized his five-point plan. It touches on a problem-oriented policing team of several law enforcement agencies; the protection of children and schools; addressing the needs of rural areas; expanding technology; and maximizing the funding the Sheriff’s Office receives.
“We know that criminals don’t look at county lines or jurisdiction,” Smethers said as a reason for an interagency policing team. “Your safety is my highest priority.”
A policing team of different agencies could focus on major issues, like drugs and homelessness, while other officers can be more proactive in the community, he said.
The interagency team also would allow patrol officers to reach more rural parts of the county, Smethers added.
Smethers also wants more school resource officers. They would educate kids about bullying and human trafficking, he said.
Smethers pointed to anticipated body-worn cameras as an example of expanding technology.
A grant recently received by the Sheriff’s Office will provide bodycams. Smethers said they’ll increase transparency.
Maximizing funding could include cross-training deputies and possibly re-allocating positions. He suggested combining the Narcotics Unit with the Major Crimes Unit.
“They would be cross-trained in all those fields,” Smethers said.
Answering a question about Mackey, Smethers said adjustments were made after the search warrant incident. His office has addressed the lack of training and now has safeguards in place for search warrants.
For example, in the past a senior detective would review another deputy’s search warrant before it went to a judge. Now a lieutenant reviews it as well, Smethers said.
Addressing the issue of eliminating cash bond, Smethers said it won’t occur until October 2019. A new governor could tweak the change. He said not enough time has passed to form an opinion on the issue.
Smethers added that an inherent unfairness with the existing bond system is the economic circumstances between rich and poor.
“That’s what’s unfair right there,” he said.
Pivoting to recidivism, Smethers said some of the problem is linked to mental illness. He said one person believed he lived at the business he kept breaking into. That person didn’t need jailing, but instead services. Smethers pointed to his five-point plan — addressing people’s needs on the street before they get arrested — as a solution.
That example ties into one of Smethers’ biggest concerns: homelessness.
“We need to make sure we work together to stop that, stop that recidivism,” he said.
Another problem Smethers’ said his office faces is staffing. The Sheriff’s Office needs dispatchers, correctional officers and deputies. Workers compensation claims, medical leave and vacation leave staffing holes. Smethers said he wants employees ready to fill a position when it becomes empty.
“All I can ask is vote for Bill Smethers when it comes to November,” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.