Bishop VFW Holds Candidates Forum for the Aspirants for Inyo County Sheriff

 

The four candidates for the top spot in Inyo County’s Sheriff’s Department spent two hours in
the hot seat Tuesday evening at the Bishop VFW Hall, answering both prepared and audience
questions. The standout from the forum was the similarity among all four as to what they
would do if elected. The challenge for voters will be determining who can deliver.

Here’s the abbreviated version of the forum.

Background:

Kelvin Johnston, served in the 7 th Marines, then started his law enforcement career in
Montana. By 1996 he was back in California, graduated from the Riverside Law Enforcement
Academy in 1999 and has spent 23 years on the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, currently
working as an investigator. He feels the department needs a change with a focus on the
community.

Eric Pritchard, began his career as a correctional officer at the Inyo County jail, attended the
Riverside academy and rose through the ranks to deputy sheriff and now sheriff following Jeff
Hollowell’s retirement. He understands all levels of the job from hiring to administrative
discipline.

Stephanie Rennie, is currently the chief investigator with the District Attorney’s office. Prior tojoining the DA’s staff in 2010, she was a correctional officer and then a deputy with the Inyo
Sheriff’s Department. She said she understands how to get a criminal prosecution and hopes to
bring the County and law enforcement together and earn back trust.

Joseph Vetter, started his career at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, moving to San
Luis Obispo Sheriff Department, then to Mono and Inyo sheriff’s departments and currently is
with Mammoth Lakes Police Department. His focus will be community policing.

Question: How would you deal with military veterans experiencing difficulties transitioning
back into civilian life?

Pritchard: Acknowledged there weren’t enough resources available to veterans and reminded
the audience the Veterans Services Office had recently been shifted to the administrative arm
of the County. He added he was working on meeting with the VSO as well as Public and
Behavioral Health staff to identify those resources

Rennie: Said there was limited funding for both staff and services to deal with those issues but
both should be available in the community. She had recently worked with the VSO and said
outside agencies would have to be sorted out to provide the needed help.

Vetter: Recalled a 911 call, four years ago, from the wife of a veteran suffering from PTSD. He
responded to the call, “talked shop” and calmed him down. “I will do whatever I need to,” he
said, “and use the resources we have” for the 3,000 veterans in Inyo and Mono counties.

Johnston: Had a similar experience with a former Marine threatening suicide. “I took the time,
talked to him, and helped him figure it out.” He said the current VSO is working on in-home and mental health care.

Question: How would you get to know and relate to the department staff?

Rennie: A para-military approach needs to change. Law enforcement is a tough job, “we need
to take care of each other. We need to remember why we wanted to be cops in the first place.”

Vetter: Loyalty is a two-way street. “I would lead by example.”

Johnston: I know the employees, the deputies.

Pritchard: Started at the bottom of the department and knows everybody from the correctional officers to the jail cooks. “I’ve watched the staff build their families. They are my family.” As the current Sheriff, he said his door is always open.

Question: Would you enforce vaccine mandates?
None of the candidates would.

Question: If you win, who would you appoint as undersheriff?

Johnston: Would wait until June to make that decision.

Pritchard: hasn’t filled the position since he feels residents want officers on the street. His
criteria for filling the position is someone who knows the department and has a mission similar
to his.

Rennie: has four officers in mind.

Vetter: has one person in mind and wants someone who would be willing to disagree with him.

Question: How would you keep schools safe, would you appoint school resource officers?
(Bishop Police Department has a resource officer at Bishop High School.)

Pritchard: Would appoint officers who wanted extra duty; he is currently filling two open
positions.

Rennie: Acknowledged the need for school resource officers to deal with drug awareness and
other issues and would secure grant funding to focus attention on youth.

Vetter: Said Mammoth Lakes PD secured a grant to backfill for its school resource officer. He
would follow a similar path for one or to SROs. He said he had gone to schools often, in
uniform, to talk about 911 use and stranger danger.

Johnston: Would do the same.

The final prepared question related to the candidates community involvement. In addition, the
first submitted question dealt with restoring area trust in the department. The answers to the
two questions were similar from all the candidates.

Rennie said it was important to get out in the community, attend meetings or volunteer to
show “we’re here and we care.”

Vetter acknowledged that the use of force issues had become a problem for law enforcement.
His solution was getting out of patrol cars and getting to know the community. He also wanted
to initiate an Explorer Program similar to those in Mammoth and Mono County

Johnston walked the streets at night when he worked in Montana. His other suggestions were
the Explorer Program and encouraging ride-alongs.

Pritchard didn’t think the department has lost trust because of the on-going involvement in the community. He added he wanted to hire locally to fill openings, especially in the south end of the county.

Question: Should the department only approve concealed carry permits if the applicant shows
“extreme need”?

None of the candidates would require showing an extreme need as a criteria for issuing a
concealed carry permit.

Question: Will the Department cooperate with the federal Immigration and Customs
Enforcement.

None of them would. Pritchard explained he would notify ICE if there was a retainer on
someone in custody.

Question: What is the most important role of the Sheriff?

Pritchard: Servant to the community and a leader in the department, lifting up the officers and helping them succeed.

Rennie: Provide guidance to the officers and service to the community. Take care of our guys.

Vetter: Defend the Constitution of the United States.

Johnston: Lead by example

 

35 Comments
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Sami
Sami
5 months ago

Pritchard is unfit for the job. A man with an explosive temper that he can’t keep in check even with other county departments. We need someone with professionalism, not an unhinged time-bomb.

Joebob
Joebob
5 months ago

Not a job title with a good reputation. Inyo County Sheriff’s Dept is horrifying!

Joebob
Joebob
5 months ago
Reply to  Joebob

Life expectancy drops dramatically any time “law enforcement” is involved

Tinner
Tinner
5 months ago

People merely read or hear the word “constitution” and they lose their minds.
I don’t get it.

David Dennison
David Dennison
5 months ago
Reply to  Tinner

Tinner I get it.. It’s the political atmosphere we’re in now… When the word “Constitution” is mentioned,the one side automatically thinks they’re talking about,and nothing but and only the 2nd Amendment.. If you’re voting as a Democrat,they say it means 100 % of the time you want to “take everyone’s… Read more »

Pedro
Pedro
5 months ago

Has Vetter actually said he would be a “Constitutional Sheriff” or is a member of Constitutional Sheriffs and Police Officers Association? I see a bunch of ranting on here claiming that’s how he describes himself. Nothing in article says that. The article also looks like the author’s summary not direct… Read more »

Video is available
Video is available
5 months ago
Reply to  Pedro

This article is a very brief summary provided after the fact. Other news agencies let people know when and where beforehand so they could attend in person. Eastern Sierra Now live-streamed the talk and also has two sections up on their YouTube channel for those that were not there in… Read more »

Pedro
Pedro
5 months ago

Thanks. Vetter does say it’s the role of every county sheriff to uphold Constitution. But that’s like saying every football team should play on a football field and not a volleyball court. Without further context it seems everyone here is conjecturing. A few direct questions to Vetter, and all other… Read more »

Concerned
Concerned
5 months ago
Reply to  Pedro

Mr. Vetter has been involved with the Free Eastside group. I think that gives us an idea of his beliefs of “constitutional rights”. My bigger concern is that these candidates are using these terms to cherry pick what they want to enforce based on their personal or political preferences. So… Read more »

David Dennison
David Dennison
5 months ago
Reply to  Concerned

Concerned

You hit the nail on the head with your comment.
Like I posted a while back, seems too much political,based on personal and political beliefs and wants.
Don’t think we need or want a Joe Arpiro wanta-bee running the ICSO….ugh !!

Deborah A Murphy
Deborah A Murphy
5 months ago

You’re right–was a brief summary. Still the piece ran very long. I don’t take shorthand, so tried to get to the core of the responses.

Realist
Realist
5 months ago

May want to reconsider voting for Kentucky Joe. It’s widely known that he purchased land back east and plans to relocate. It’s part of the Free Eastsiders guidebook. Better to stick with someone who is invested with Inyo and actually cares about its future.

Rob
Rob
5 months ago

I’m going to vote for the woman but she’s going to have to prove she’s a biological female

Rich on the Eastside
Rich on the Eastside
5 months ago

So candidate Vetter has changed employers 5 times during his law enforcement career, and this would number 6?

No thanks.

Seriously?
Seriously?
5 months ago

Rich on the Eastide-moving departments is very common in law enforcement. There are dozens of reasons and each person has a different one.

Rich on the Eastside
Rich on the Eastside
5 months ago
Reply to  Seriously?

Moving may be common, moving a half dozen times is not. Red flag in my opinion. YMMV

David Dennison
David Dennison
5 months ago

The statement “Constitutional Sheriff “……let me guess. Some will see and take this as TOTALLY political,thinking it means the second amendment he is talking of is in danger and who will fight against that. NEWS FLASH !! Nobody is “trying to take “everyone’s” guns away”.. Nobody ever has,nobody ever will… Read more »

Dark Watcher
Dark Watcher
5 months ago
Reply to  David Dennison

Constitutional Sheriff usually refers to the mistaken belief that sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the US. The idea is from the even bizarre delusion of “Sovereign Citizens” who believe that most laws do not apply to them if they declare their “sovereignity”. No drivers licenses, no speed… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Dark Watcher
David Dennison
David Dennison
5 months ago
Reply to  Dark Watcher

Dark Watcher

Oh jeez…just what we need in the OV….
Someone coming in thinking he’s a King or ruler,and a “leader” for those that agree and abide..

Jimmy j
Jimmy j
5 months ago
Reply to  David Dennison

I knew someone who once thought he was a “king!” Worked out wellll for him!

Sami
Sami
5 months ago

Sound like there’s little difference between how any of these candidates say they would do the job.

Kay Kramer
Kay Kramer
5 months ago

Please everyone, research what a “Constitutional Sheriff” is and know that we do NOT want Joe Vetter, who has just described himself as a “Constitutional Sheriff” to be elected.

BobK
BobK
5 months ago
Reply to  Kay Kramer

Kay. I just researched “Constitutional sheriff” as you wished….. Looks like I’m voting for Joe Vetter. Thanks Kay.

Seriously?
Seriously?
5 months ago
Reply to  Kay Kramer

So you would rather have a sheriff who wants to violate the Constitution? Seems odd, but you are free to have your views. There were clearly two stand out candidates at the Townhall: Joe Vetter and Eric Pritchard. Vetter has not been part of the good ole’boy for decades, so… Read more »

Dark Watcher.
Dark Watcher.
5 months ago
Reply to  Seriously?

A sheriff’s job is to enforce state laws and county ordinances. Sheriff’s focused on the US Constitution are as deluded, and dangerous, as the seditionists who invaded the U S Capitol 1/6/21. Those seditionists were quite sure they were there “to enforce the constitution.” Our 50 state attorneys general, the… Read more »

David Dennison
David Dennison
5 months ago
Reply to  Dark Watcher.

Dark Watcher

WOW !!!!
Very well said….

Kay Kramer
Kay Kramer
5 months ago
Reply to  Dark Watcher.

Thank you Dark Watcher, you beat me to it. I want a sheriff who enforces laws as they are determined by judicial branches of the state, as well as the supreme court, not by his or her own interpretation of “constitutional law;” one who is not biased by his or… Read more »

Joshua Nicholson
Joshua Nicholson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kay Kramer

I’ll take that bet. In fact, lets double it. 20 bucks says he doesn’t.

Tourbillon
Tourbillon
5 months ago
Reply to  Dark Watcher.

You could not be more wrong. Do you know what oath the Sheriff takes? It’s on the Inyo county website. The oath is to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and California constitution, NOT “county ordinances”. Their code of ethics includes “to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty,… Read more »

Dark Watcher
Dark Watcher
5 months ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

Ever since the 1803 Marbury v. Madison Supreme Court decision, federal courts have been the sole interpreter of the constitution and the laws that flow from it. For over 200 years we have developed and followed a legal system wherein our courts determine what the consitution and the law means… Read more »

Vaguely
Vaguely
5 months ago
Reply to  Dark Watcher

You could not be more wrong about Marbury, which nowhere said that courts were the “sole” interpreters of constitutionality. I will stop there because you have an ideological agenda untempered by an educable intellect

Harold
Harold
5 months ago
Reply to  Seriously?

Maybe not for multiple decades, but the last decade he has been for sure. Just because he is currently not employed by the ICSO does not mean he isn’t deeply involved.

Kay Kramer
Kay Kramer
5 months ago

If you win, who would you appoint as UnderSheriff? Vetter has one person in mind but won’t name that person. Why not ? What is the most important role of the Sheriff ? Vetter says: “Defend the Constitution of the United States” – ? ??? Uh, that’s not the job… Read more »

BobK
BobK
5 months ago
Reply to  Kay Kramer

Kay. I don’t believe any of the candidates said who their pick would be. Why would you omit that fact?

Seriously?
Seriously?
5 months ago
Reply to  Kay Kramer

Nobody provided who their undersheriff would be. Maybe you should listen to the townhall in its entirety and in detail. And yes, the sheriff’s job is to protect the rights of the citizens. Nobody wants their rights violated. NOT anyone I have met. Kramer, since you seem to be an… Read more »