After serving as Sheriff for Santa Barbara County for over 11 years, Sheriff Bill Brown will be up for re-election on June 5. His opponents are Santa Barbara County deputy veteran, Lt. Brian Olmstead, who has served for 28 years, and the only Democratic candidate, Lt. Eddie Hseuh. The three candidates met for a forum at the Isla Vista Community Center on Wednesday, May 24, to discuss issues ranging from police-community relations to sexual assault.
A group of five protesters at the sheriff’s forum displayed animosity towards Sheriff Bill Brown due to both his stance on reporting undocumented immigrants to ICE, and poor relations between police and Isla Vista residents. Protesters chanted, “From Palestine to Mexico, all these walls have got to go!” and “Up with education, down with deportation!”
Sheriff Bill Brown has been criticized by community members for his belief that undocumented immigrants in jail should be reported to ICE officials. Brown referenced a case in which a man charged with child molestation was wanted by ICE, yet was set free on bail and fled before ICE officials could question him. Brown used this case to justify contacting ICE about the release date of wanted subjects.
Lt. Brian Olmstead agreed with Brown on contacting ICE in regards to reporting undocumented immigrants for arrest, and believes in immigration reform at the state level. In contrast, Hseuh said that he will stop releasing information to ICE about the release of criminals, except when the information relates to violent crimes. Lt. Eddie Hseuh believes that the sheriff’s office should not do the job of ICE, and supports the removal of the ICE office from Santa Barbara County jails.
Sheriff Brown and Lt. Hseuh discussed Senate Bill 54 which would repeal a law requiring an arresting agency to notify ICE when someone arrested is believed to not be a citizen. Brown said that the sheriff’s office has the duty to the community to tell ICE a suspected undocumented immigrant is in its custody. Lt. Hseuh is in favor of SB 54, saying that, “families should not be in fear of being reported.”
When questioned about degrading relations and mistrust between Isla Vista residents and police officers, all candidates supported improving public trust by having officers be more accessible to residents.
“We want a call, we want to be able to save a life,” said Lt. Eddie Hseuh while endorsing his medical-first method of policing, prioritizing saving lives over prosecuting individuals in life- threatening situations.
Brown endorsed his “community policing” method, which encourages community members to take action when they see a crime occurring. Instead of waiting for police to intervene in situations such as sexual assault, a community policing method asks bystanders to get involved and take action in those situations.
Brown also has officers trained in showing compassion toward survivors of sexual assault, saying, “Treat that person as if they are a member of our family.” Brown also said that, “Cultures can be changed for the better,” after presenting data about the decline of rapes in IV from 18 in 2016 to 7 in 2017.
Although recognizing post-crime investigation is important, Lt. Brian Olmstead hopes to focus more on how to prevent sexual assault from happening. Lt. Olmstead says that by having more officers walking on foot rather than driving in a vehicle and by concentrating on a good investigation from the start, officers may begin to resolve sexual assault cases more effectively.
Lt. Hseuh seeks to work closer with campus organizations such as CARE and UCPD to gather data on sexual assault while also building a stronger relationship with survivors to encourage reporting cases to the sheriff’s office. He also endorses Green Dot method of training, in which community members are encouraged to distract, direct, and delegate during situations of sexual misconduct.
The forum ended after External Vice President of Local Affairs Jekie Meijer read an anonymous testimonial that reported misconduct from an officer. Afterwards, all three candidates reiterated the need to have better training for officers. Lt. Hseuh recognized the unique position of law enforcement having the ability to take lives, and the need for officers to be responsible for their actions, saying, “We need to hold our officers accountable.”