Editorial: Hirokawa for sheriff

After 20 years as sheriff, a strong challenge to Laurie Smith is overdue

In spite of being opposed by four challengers, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith could squeak out the necessary 50 percent on June 5 to avoid a runoff in the November election.

That would be a shame in our opinion, as we think her longevity in the office and her shaky performance deserves a head-to-head campaign with the only other qualified candidate in the race, former Undersheriff John Hirokawa.

Smith has presided over a department that has been operating under a cloud of controversy for a long time. The most recent has been her oversight of the county jails and the 2015 murder of an inmate, Michael Tyree, by three deputy sheriffs. She has attempted in this campaign to deflect responsibility for all that is wrong at the jails to Hirokawa, who as undersheriff was the No. 2 in the department and, among a host of other operational responsibilities, oversaw the assistant sheriff who was directly running the jail.

The finger-pointing about who should be held accountable for serious deficiencies in the sheriff's department and jail aside, the other three challengers do not have close to the law enforcement management experience needed to oversee the 1,800-person, $350 million agency. Between Smith, 66, who is asking for a sixth, four-year term, and Hirokawa -- who like Smith went up through the ranks over his more than 35 years with the department until retiring in 2016 at age 61 -- we think Hirokawa is the better choice.

Significantly, Hirokawa is supported by 11 former police chiefs, including recently retired Palo Alto chief Dennis Burns, and retired San Jose Independent Police Auditor and former judge LaDoris Cordell, who also chaired a blue-ribbon committee appointed after the jail murder of Tyree in 2015. He is also endorsed by Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian and the Deputy Sheriffs' Association. (Smith was endorsed by the other four county supervisors.)

In addition to overseeing the jails (since 2010), the sheriff's department is responsible for law enforcement in the county's unincorporated areas and provides police services to several smaller cities, including Los Altos Hills and to the VTA. It also provides security at all county courthouses and grants Stanford police its deputized law enforcement status even though Stanford officers are university employees and supervised by a police chief hired by Stanford.

Smith has retained her seat over the last 20 years by being an astute politician who has nurtured all the right relationships and made sure the communities contracting with the sheriff's office for police services are happy. That's commendable, but we believe the troubled department needs stronger leadership. A runoff election campaign will help confirm whether John Hirokawa is the person to bring it.

Editorial endorsements reflect the opinion of the editorial board of the Mountain View Voice and do not affect the operations of the newsroom or its staff.

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1 person likes this
Posted by Robyn
a resident of another community
on May 31, 2018 at 7:52 pm

I voted for Sheriff Smith. She is a good, competent Sheriff.

12 people like this
Posted by law enforcement
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Joseph LaJeunesse is the best candidate to do the job. The other candidates work for the political and Elite's class only. Joe will be for the people.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe who? "voted for"?
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 6, 2018 at 2:01 pm

Not interested in a "who's that ?" candidate. I also, in the past have "voted for" Smith. Let the fun begin and see if her challenger is up to the task of this POLITICAL challenge. Smith has political experience, and this is a political office.

I think it is now time for the electorate to RETIRE SMITH. I was not planning on voting for her again. I agree with the publisher/editorial and I will probably minimally work in the campaign to replace her this year.

2 people like this
Posted by Problem Identified
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2018 at 2:29 pm

"Not interested in a "who's that ?" candidate."

Learn. Become informed and you'll cast an informed vote. Be better tomorrow than you are today, always.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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