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To the Editor-
I would like to provide another side to this topic. Be clear, I am not endorsing anyone for the position of Sheriff in Mendocino County as I do not live there anymore. You are free to vote for whom you think is best suited for the position. However, since Trent James has made himself a public figure, I will offer a bit of insight into how he has operated. You can say what you will about the rumors you’ve heard about me, there really is nothing new that can be said that has not already been said of me. There are those who are going to fall into the anti-police crowd who have bought into his anti-police message. This is for the undecided who may view this with an open mind and consideration.
I have watched a few of his videos and his attention seeking is filled with anti-police sentiment. I ask you why he never said a word of this while he was employed if it was so obvious and he was so concerned, not a peep.
Trent worked in Covelo and later was appointed as a resident Deputy for a couple of years. What he does not say is that he got burned out dealing with the people and problems there and demanded to be transferred out, which was granted. In his defense, having worked this and other resident posts, Covelo is by far the most stressful position of the Patrol positions in the County. He continued to rotate into Covelo from the Willits substation and, by and large, did a good job relating to the citizens there. He voiced to me numerous times how trying it was to provide good services there and how it was frustrating.
After a break from the Resident Post position in Covelo, and with continuous attempts by the Sheriffs to recruit and fill this post without success, Trent offered to move back but seemed to make demands on how he would do so. One of his demands was more bonus money for working Covelo.
NOTE: For many years the county has paid a bonus for working the Covelo post which later included some of the other resident posts. These bonuses are a negotiated item between the Deputy Sheriff’s Association and the Board of Supervisors, which a Sheriff has input on but cannot directly authorize.
These negotiations didn’t go well, as he was demanding an extra $20,000 to work there, but the Sheriff could not authorize this. It was outside the pay allowed under the DSA contract. This is apparently when Trent became disillusioned and command staff from the Willits Police Department started to recruit him. At one point he made an ultimatum to the Sheriff to move him to Covelo, with the extra money, or he would quit and go to WPD.
The Sheriff, unable to comply with the demands said no, so Trent, in true millennial fashion for not receiving his participation trophy, got mad, quit, and was hired by WPD.
All newly hired peace officers are placed on probationary status. As most police departments do, they are the primary agency for traffic enforcement in their jurisdiction. All new police officers are tasked with traffic enforcement. By his own admission, again in true millennial fashion, he deemed this assignment as beneath him. You would think he would have looked at the job duties prior to accepting the job.
What seems to be very clear, as there was no peep from him about any corruption, is that he became a disgruntled employee as he could not follow directions and perform the “menial tasks” of his position, and he was released on probation.
At that time did he mention corruption? Not a peep. He then requested to be re-hired at the Sheriff’s Office. After having proven himself a difficult employee, having an entitled mentality, his request was denied.
ONLY after being turned down for re-hire by the Sheriff’s Office did he become jilted. It was then he started lashing out in his videos. Trent was employed at the entry-level. He had zero access to personnel investigations. His implying “all these things are well documented” with reports on file is a lie. From personal experience, I can assure you they are not all documented. There are things he said of me that were never investigated even after I begged the department to do so. One of these was a rumor that I was involved in the illicit Marijuana business. I requested, in writing, to the Sheriff open an internal affairs case, to investigate me, to clear this issue up as it was completely false. I outlined in this request what would happen if there was no investigation and the rumor grew in the community, that it would damage trust, which is exactly what happened.
I say this only to point out that many of his statements about investigations and reports are false. The accusation is easy, peace officers are used to this. Some of the things in his videos were investigated. Some were from agencies outside the Sheriff’s Office. He has zero access to any of those files. As a command staff member within the Sheriff’s Office, I didn’t even have access to the IA files.
The Sheriff is prohibited from responding to many of his accusations. Under the Peace Officer Bill of Rights, personnel investigations are protected. If an officer has been disciplined it is not a matter of public knowledge. Criminal matters and charges are different. Criminal charges and prosecution are made at the DAs level.
Trent aspires to be Sheriff but doesn’t know any of this. He has absolutely no budget, command, or even supervisory experience. Aside from rumor-mongering in the parking lot with what I would guess are a few frustrated deputies what are his qualifications? Why did he not bring up these “corruption ” issues when he was employed if he was such a stand-up guy.
Is there room to improve law enforcement overall and or leadership in Mendocino County? Absolutely in every agency in the country, this should be the goal. For those of you with open minds, peace officers make mistakes. I am privy to many investigations and disciplines given out in Mendocino County to correct behavior or fire officers for serious violations. With very few exceptions the Law Enforcement Officers, in all agencies within Mendocino County, are professional, dedicated, and self-sacrificing. They are overworked, often berated, and understaffed. True to their profession they don’t throw fits when they don’t get their way. They suck it up, showing up to work day after day, trying to make a difference and they deserve your appreciation.
So vote for whom you think is best suited for the job. But be aware of the character of who you vote for. Being a disgruntled and entitled millennial does not qualify you for the position of Sheriff.
-Retird Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Shannon Barney