Because of my role as a Del Valle ISD trustee (and the de-facto electee for my seat come this November for another four years, as no one challenged me), I initially put my name in for Sheriff as a placeholder for the party, but wasn't successful in recruiting another to take my place. A few that I asked considered it, but have many other activists roles that took precedent, so *tag* I'm it!
You may be wondering, don't you have to be a peace officer to be sheriff? Nope. Not in Texas. So let's take advantage of this and talk about the issues cops rarely touch.
While I'm not diving deep into a campaign (this blog will act as my website, but have a FB page too), I do believe it is necessary to offer a modicum of a challenge to the presumptive winner in November, Sally Hernandez, the Democratic nominee. I'll dig into why in future posts.
But for now, I wanted to share my answers for the League of Women Voters Guide - to be published soon:
Please explain your plan for deportation of undocumented persons?
It is not the Sheriff's job to deport anyone. The question is, "how will I handle ICE detainers?" The current Sheriff has been vocal in his support of the disgraced "Secure Communities" (and its re-branded "Priority Enforcement Program"), not recognizing the human consequences or legal liability to the TCSO. The law says that we don't detain anyone beyond the initial 48 hours without a judicial warrant, not just an ICE “request. “ ICE has to prove they are a danger to the public safety and a flight risk. The 14th amendment ensures due process for ALL persons, not just citizens.
What are your proposals for tackling challenges such as enhancing collaboration among the Sheriff’s Office, the City Council, the County Commissioners, and the community?
I've long been engaged in this effort as a community organizer. As a DVISD school board trustee, I've successfully worked with TCSO/Council/Commissioners/community on many fronts. The current Sheriff has done some good work to this end; my plan is to keep what's working/put to bed what's not, and bring in community members who have effective projects and advisors for improved coalition-building tactics. Recently, I've been engaged with APD and council on community-input on APD policy; on their budget and on community inclusion into the new Austin city manager selection process.
Please explain how you think the Sheriff’s Office can contribute to improving race relations?
Teach by example. But to be teachers, you have to not only do your job well, and according to the policy which precludes racial profiling (yet the numbers show they do it anyway), you have to actively learn how to "undo racism." This is not a feel-good term...this is an active program that all deputies will be mandated to participate in upon my election (as is currently proposed for all COA employees). I also have plans for effective community policing, one with concrete goals and quantifiable results. This will serve both the deputies and the community immensely by helping to rebuild trust.
Many mentally ill persons are in jail instead of treatment. How do you propose to remedy this situation?
Advocate via the aforementioned collaborative process for more funding for more services to divert them from our jail. Most of the revolving door to our jail is due to untreated mental health issues...it's pennies on the taxpayer dollar to house them in long or short term treatment facilities. Also, judging by the recent suicide of a Travis deputy and the arrest of a WilCo deputy for domestic abuse, we need to offer/de-stigmatize mental health support in-house. We don't screen applicants for psychopathy (there's a significant overlap between that and physical abuse). I will change this.
What issues within your County need the most attention? What solutions will you pursue?
No one should be in jail that's not an actual public safety threat. Our "cite and release" policy for small amounts of marijuana was a good start. I will rewrite policy to (highly) encourage maximum legal discretion for all drug arrests. Decriminalization = less "crime" = less need for jail space. Divert resources to treatment. TCSO offers 100% of low-level drug offenders confidential informant status, so they go buy/do more drugs on our watch & dime instead of getting treatment. I will stop this. Shouldn't the Travis County Sheriff be progressive on the drug war, not engender drug use/abuse?