Sierra Wave Media

Eastern Sierra News for [current_date format=’F d, Y’]

 

 

 

11484839 web1 inyo 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