By Royal Calkins
The race for Monterey County sheriff will be held during the primary election in June. Unless one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the two candidates receiving the most votes will compete in a runoff as part of the November 2022 general election.
Of all the current candidates for Monterey County sheriff, Jeff Hoyne has the longest and most varied history in enforcement.
Those who pay attention to the comings and goings of police chiefs may know that he has been chief of the Del Rey Oaks Police Department since 2017 and chief of the Monterey Peninsula Airport Police Department since 2014. He oversaw a merger of those departments and services simultaneously as head of both.
Deeper in his resume is the record of his early career. He started in 1989 as a jail deputy for the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado, moved on to become a school resource officer for a Colorado police department and then an officer and canine handler for the Fort Collins Police Services Department. He theng spent five years as a deputy with the Kings County Sheriff’s Department based in Seattle. From there, it was a short move to become a sergeant for the port police agency in Seattle.
While wearing his chief’s hat, he also has served as acting city manager and assistant city manager in Del Rey Oaks while also operating a private security consulting company.
Hoyne — Jeffrey James Hoyne — is one of five candidates to replace Sheriff Steve Bernal, who decided against seeking re-election. The others are sheriff’s Capt. Joe Moses, Marina Police Chief Tina Nieto, former sheriff’s Commander Jose Mendoza and deputy Justin Patterson. They will face off in the June 2022 primary election with the two top vote getters meeting again in November.
Q: What was the biggest factor that made you decide to enter the race?
A: My desire to make things better in the unique communities that make up Monterey County. Strong communities need responsible leadership. That belief has guided my 32-year career and it still guides me today. We can and must do better for the people of Monterey County and that starts with strong and responsible leadership at the county level, to rebuild trust and keep our families safe.
Q: You are now running small police forces in Del Rey Oaks and the Monterey airport. What makes you feel ready to take on the responsibility of running a much larger organization?
A: The Sheriff’s Office serves many diverse small communities such as Big Sur, Castroville, Chualar and others. These communities have different public safety needs and being able to effectively run the department requires an understanding of how to deliver small-town policing. My law enforcement and municipal management resume includes agencies large and small, county, municipal, port authority and special district jurisdictions.
I have held a wide variety of operational, administrative, and tactical/specialty assignment positions in patrol, schools, training, SWAT, K9, civil disturbance, and emergency operations at line-level, supervisory, management, and executive levels. I graduated from the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command; The California Police Chiefs Executive Leadership Institute; the International Association of Chiefs of Police Leadership in Police Organizations course; the California POST Executive Development Course; and the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association Executive, Management, and Supervisory Leadership Institutes. My academic education includes a bachelor’s degree in homeland security, and a master’s in organizational management.
An effective Sheriff’s Department requires strong administrative leadership as well as a law enforcement background. I am proud to have both. Most recently, that resulted in proposing, planning, and executing a complex police consolidation plan between the city of Del Rey Oaks and the Monterey Peninsula Airport District that has increased professional service to the community and saved money for both jurisdictions.
Q: Which part of your career has been the most interesting? The most important?
A: It may sound cheesy but I really believe every single part. I didn’t go into law enforcement to “climb the ladder.” I spent the first 18 years of my career getting a solid base of operational, administrative, and specialty/tactical assignments. In the 14-plus years since, I have held supervisory, management, and executive positions in both law enforcement and city management. I guess if anything, that combination of experiences has most prepared me for this position.
Q: If Steve Bernal had sought re-election, would you have run against him? If not, why not?
A: Yes, I made my intentions clear months before Sheriff Bernal announced he would not seek re-election. I believe the Monterey Sheriff’s Department needs to rebuild trust with the community. I believe that for this to happen, the department needs new leadership.
Q: What is your view of how Bernal and the department have operated in recent years?
A: Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s Department has been the focus of negative news and unnecessary distractions despite the hard work and honorable intentions of the vast majority of the hardworking deputies and professional staff. There are some local issues that have contributed to that — including the tragedy of the Hernandez case in our jail (leading to judicial oversight). There are also state issues that have contributed to that, including Prop. 49 and 59. Instead of streamlining and reorganizing, the department has suffered a loss of reputation and transparency, both internally and to the public.
Q: Do you expect to receive support from any past or present members of the Sheriff’s Department?
A: Yes. Many inside the Sheriff’s Department have felt the shortcomings of leadership over the last few years the most strongly. I appreciate their continued community service and I am grateful for their support and insights as we work toward rebuilding the department.
Q: To fill key leadership positions in the Sheriff’s Department, would you be more likely to promote from within or hire from the outside?
A: I will be considering a number of candidates, both internal and external. There are many strong leaders and experienced deputies that I would like to see promoted and their hard work acknowledged. The one position that might be the exception is the Jail Division chief. Due to the challenges the jail has faced and the inability to internally address some of those issues, I would work with the Board of Supervisors and the county HR department to conduct a national search to find the most experienced and capable candidate for that position. Additionally, I would conduct an internal staff review of jail operations and work to fund an external review of jail operations by an outside consultant team that specializes in correctional operation reviews. … We would complete a strategic plan for jail operations, with specific goals, objectives, and timelines, to be overseen by the most highly qualified corrections chief we could bring to the team.
Q: As chief of the Del Rey Oaks and airport police forces, what has been your position on COVID vaccine mandates? What would your position be if you were sheriff now?
A: Law enforcement officers aren’t politicians, we serve on the front lines. I support my officers’ decision on what will protect them best. Currently, our joint forces have an extremely high voluntary vaccination rate.
If I was sheriff now, I would work with department members and the Board of Supervisors to develop viable options for our staff, with the goal of finding safe solutions for continued service for those who have sacrificed so much during this pandemic and are uncomfortable with the mandate.
Q: Sheriff’s deputies and some supervisors are unionized in Monterey County. Have you been a union member? What experience have you had working with unions?
A: Yes, I have been a union member. I have positive experiences working with unions and believe they are critical to helping law enforcement officers do their jobs well. Strong leadership at the county level will require good communication and collaboration between the department and unions.
Q: Much of the population is pushing police departments to become less militaristic and less confrontational, especially when dealing with communities of color, the homeless, the mentally ill and others. As sheriff, would you support measures to increase cooperation with social workers, mental health agencies, community activists, etc.? If so, why? If not, why not?
A: Our primary role is to keep our community safe. That includes the vulnerable including communities of color, the homeless, and the mentally ill. Does keeping them safe mean exposing the rest of our community to violence or danger? No, but I have followed multiple multi-disciplinary (law-enforcement, mental health, EMS) team models closely to see what kinds of models we could learn from to identify real need and cooperate with other agencies to address those needs in non-confrontational manners.
Q: In many law enforcement agencies, the officers adopt an attitude of Us vs. Them regarding civilians. As sheriff, what would you do to change that?
A: I have always believed that communities are best served when civilians and law enforcement work together. My time in Del Rey Oaks has demonstrated exactly how effective that type of partnership really is and my recent proclamation from City Hall said as much: “Del Rey Oaks wishes to thank Jeff for his calm and collected leadership paired with a personal style that is compassionate and kind … .”
Q: What else would you like to tell us?
A: I believe turnaround is possible and necessary for our county. I don’t give up, on people, on departments, or on communities. If you have ideas for how the Sheriff’s Department could improve service to the community, I would love to hear them.
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