Saturday, September 23, 2023

‘Public Safety Is and Will Remain My Priority’—An Open Letter from Sheriff Kendall

The following is an open letter composed by Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall intended for the citizens of Mendocino County:

Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall

I want to thank you for electing me your sheriff on Tuesday, June 7, 2022.

I was appointed in January 2020 to succeed Sheriff Tom Allman, and I am honored to have won your vote of confidence for a four-year term. 

With your help, my goal during this term is to rebuild safer communities by restoring patrol levels across the county to meet public safety needs. County residents are typically industrious, caring people who want what is best for their families, friends, and communities. So do I.

I grew up in Mendocino County. I remain here for the simple reason this is my home, as it was my father’s and his father’s before. I cannot go anywhere in the county that does not remind me of a time when I lived or worked there. I plan to live here for the remainder of my life. It gives me a personal stake in ensuring that the crime-related issues which are currently plaguing us are faced.

Public safety is and will remain my top priority as Sheriff over the next four years.

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We know that current low law enforcement staffing numbers across the United States are affecting the ability to serve the public everywhere. In rural counties, the hiring and retention of employees is always an issue. Covid pandemic-related shutdowns, recent legislation, and government spending priorities have hampered law enforcement efforts. 

 Yes, emerging technologies are helping but we need qualified and trained personnel to use the innovations in investigating crimes and maintaining public safety. 

A high priority for me will be keeping sheriff personnel in the outlying areas of our sprawling county which are often affected most by crime. We must have professionally trained deputies on patrol, and in our Corrections Division.

During my new term, I intend to work collaborative with other agencies and tribal governments, and I pledge to focus my attention on these relationships. In Mendocino County, tribal governments are a key resource in serving all of our residents. I will continue to improve relationships with tribal leaders who do so much for our rural communities.

Behavioral Health issues are at the forefront and during the past year, I have worked closely with mental health agencies. Our department organized a team led by Capt. Greg VanPatten to implement a ‘dual response’ model where Behavioral Health workers are partnering with patrol deputies to serve individuals in crisis. The team has grown to three crisis workers who are now serving throughout the county. As a result, we are reducing the number of persons falling into crisis by meeting them halfway. This pre-emptive intervention or ‘upstream’ approach is showing positive outcomes. Service providers and local hospitals are benefiting, and our deputies are able to spend more time on the streets.

As your elected Sheriff, I pledge to take these steps:

  • I will continue to move forward with plans to construct a new jail facility. A new jail will better serve the incarcerated population while allowing improved in-custody programs. To that end, I have created a new position within the Corrections Division – a ‘Restorative Justice Coordinator.’ The goal is to partner with several service providers to provide training and education programs for incarcerated individuals. The goal is to help change behaviors and empower individuals to find better options in their lives upon release.
  • I will continue to work with the Mendocino County Probation Office to ensure inmates are in direct contact with probation officers prior to their release. I believe if we start people in the right direction, it will be easier for them to create a healthy, productive life on the outside.
  • I am collaborating with the Sheriffs of Lake, Humboldt, Trinity, and Butte counties, we have formed the ‘Northern California Coalition to Safeguard Communities.’ Our priorities are combating illegal cannabis cultivation, environmental crimes, and human trafficking. Our coalition allows us to provide support and accept funding from charitable organizations to assist us in being more aggressive with these issues.
  • I am also working with allied law enforcement agencies locally and across the state so the voices of Northern Californians can be heard. Unless state and federal authorities hear us, we will continue to suffer from ‘one size fits all’ programs which do not work in our rural communities.
  • No doubt we are struggling with substantial quality-of-life issues, which include substance abuse and homelessness. Many of these issues are outside of law enforcement abilities, but the relentless rise in drug addiction and behavioral health issues forces us to demand legislators and local lawmakers hear our concerns. These difficult issues are no longer sustainable, and we have to change our approach across the board.
  • I am currently training a sheriff’s services technician to work in our local schools.  We want to implement programs dealing with gang resistance, drug use, and community empowerment. I know that empowerment through education in the schools, in law enforcement training, and in public venues works to help stabilize public safety.

In conclusion, in a small department, we can only do so much on our own. Many of the goals I have set can only be met with community support, and the partnerships we build. 

It is one of the many reasons I love working in Mendocino County. The outpouring of support from residents and community advocates is both overwhelming and humbling. 

I thank you, and I look forward to being your Sheriff for the next four years.

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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
Editor's Note: Whenever an article's byline reads "MendoFever Staff", the contents of that article were not composed by any of our reporters. Types of writing that will be attributed to "MendoFever Staff" include press releases, letters to the editor, op-eds, obituaries— essentially writing that is not produced by a reporter.

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