Local News

Tuesday, May 23 2006 02:34 AM

J.R. Rodriguez names priorities for sheriff

By The Bakersfield Californian

Name: Jim Raul "J.R." Rodriguez

Age: 53

Highest rank: Currently a Kern County Sheriff's Department sergeant.

How long in Kern County? 53 years

Qualifications: Associate science (two-year) degree in justice administration from Bakersfield College. Elected president of Kern Law Enforcement Association, the union for sheriff's deputies, sergeants and district attorney investigators, for 10 years. With Kern sheriff's since 1979.

Party affiliation: Democrat

Regular voter? Rodriguez has voted in 14 out of the last 14 general, primary and statewide special elections since 1992, voting records show.

Endorsements: Ed Grimes, mayor of Tehachapi

Campaign Web site: www.JRforSheriff.com

Five questions e-mailed to all candidates (edited for length):

1. What is your top priority for the department?

I will immediately begin bringing the department back together and ensure taxpayers their funds have been used in the manner intended by conducting a cost-recovery audit of budgetary funds along with the filling of the department's vacancies with ongoing recruitment.

2. Tell us about one of your most important law enforcement accomplishments?

The accomplishment closest to me is authoring the D.E.C. (Drug Endangered Children) protocol that is now utilized by law enforcement personnel in Kern County.

Adults who have made the choice to use drugs are one issue. Many drug users have children, but drugs have consumed their lives and decision-making.

This protocol gives detailed instructions to law enforcement, social workers and health care personnel to treat and care for children who have been subjected to drug exposure and gives them a fighting chance.

3. How would you handle incidents of excessive force by detentions or street deputies?

Excessive force will not be tolerated under my administration. I will hold those individuals accountable to the fullest extent of the law. I believe these incidents do not happen simply because of negligence, but because of inadequate leadership, supervision and training.

Thus, I would hold the individuals along with supervisors and managers accountable for unacceptable incidents such as these.

4. Supervisors have OK'd funding to hire more deputies, yet positions remain empty. How will you recruit?

In seeking to employ future employees of the sheriff's department, I will make it a point to aggressively search out and recruit capable individuals with unique skills and backgrounds in our county.

I take offense when I am told we cannot find qualified candidates in Kern County. The reason we lose candidates is simple. They find other agencies more attractive, including the Bakersfield Police Department, which does not have trouble with recruitment.

I will explore programs in our high schools and colleges along with recruitment of our people returning from military duty, job fairs and community searches.

5. What is the largest budget you have been responsible for? What is the largest number of staffers you have managed?

I was responsible for the Kern Law Enforcement Association budget and took it from a payday-to-payday operation to a well-balanced operation with assets worth several million dollars.

Selected to manage and supervise the CAL-MMET (California Multi-Jurisdictional Methamphetamine Enforcement Team) grant, I brought a concept into reality.

Of the $15 million granted to the sheriff's department, I was tasked with purchasing equipment and salaries. The number of staffers at K.L.E.A. was two; at CAL-MMET 15.

Live Q&A (edited responses from in-person interviews):

Q: The sheriff's race is, technically, nonpartisan. But Bakersfield is known for its enthusiastically Republican base. Do you think being the only Democrat affects your chances?

A: Yes and no.

I know parties like to support their own members. But I hope they read between the lines and pick the person who is the most dedicated and has been responsible in the Sheriff's Department.

I was asked to change my party affiliation.

They told me: You know this is a Republican county, JR. We want you to run. But in order to be successful, you have to switch over to become a Republican.

I said: I can't do that.

I said: No. 1, this is what I think.

And No. 2, how is that going to be reflected to the community, by jumping on the bandwagon like that?

People aren't stupid.

People will say: This guy switched just for that one reason.

Q: You haven't stirred up ire or accusations of wrongdoing. Does this mean you're not making an impact?

A: No.

As a matter of fact, I look at it as not being controversial.

Naturally, with seven candidates in the race it makes it difficult.

It's all about taking the people who are undecided. And that's what we're focusing on now.

Q: (To be asked of all candidates) How is your health? Have you ever been diagnosed with heart trouble or hypertension? Cancer? Other serious disease?

A: Well, hypertension and law enforcement go hand in hand, I'm gonna tell you right now.

I haven't had any heart attacks and don't have any major ailments other than maybe being a few pounds overweight.

Q: Have you ever taken the commanders test? How did you score?

A: I did take it at the last minute at the urging of my friends ... about four or five months ago. I didn't prepare for it whatsoever.

I scored a 69 out of (the 70 required to pass).

I didn't prepare for it.

I do have the experience and management training. I went out and sought that.

Want to compare all seven sheriff’s candidates side by side?

So do we. We’re hoping you’ll clip and save profiles as we print them this week.

That way you’ll be ready for the June 6 primary, when the top two finishers will be chosen for a November run-off. (Technically, one man could win in June if he earns more than half the vote, but that’s considered almost impossible with such a crowded field).

The contenders are Chevy Garza, Mike Lage, Steve Perez, J.R. Rodriguez, Larry Studer, Mack Wimbish and Donny Youngblood.

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