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Sandra Brown Challenging Her Boss for County Sheriff

Calling for 'Action, Not Words,' she says residents need a leader who will 'think ahead and plan ahead' and 'keep politics out of public safety'

There will be a new sheriff in town if Sgt. Sandra Brown has her way.

Brown, a 16-year veteran of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, announced Wednesday that she intends to run for the seat held by Sheriff Bill Brown, of no relation, who has served two terms in the post since 2006.

Touting a message calling for “Action, Not Words,” Brown said she’ll be running in the June 3, 2014, primary election.

She currently serves as detective sergeant in the Special Investigations Bureau of the Coroner’s Office, and did not mince words in her statement put out Wednesday.

Santa Barbara County “needs a proactive sheriff who will put deputies back on the streets, ensure they have the training and equipment to protect the public, and stop using public safety as a political pawn in budget battles with the Board of Supervisors,” she said.

Before coming to the Coroner’s Office, Brown worked as a narcotics detective, an Isla Vista senior deputy, a community resource deputy for the city of Buellton, and as an agent for the Santa Barbara Regional Narcotic Enforcement Team.

She is also a co-founder of the Deputy “Explorer” program, a past director of Education for Santa Maria Fighting Back, was named Goleta’s Public Servant of the Year, and has been involved in the Santa Barbara County chapter of Court Appointed Special Advocates and the Santa Barbara County Mental Health Commission.

Brown sat down with Noozhawk on Wednesday to talk about why she chose to run now, and what she thinks she can bring to the job.

Working in the Coroner’s Office has allowed Brown to see county crime trends as they’re happening, she said, and that data, like that of prescription drug-abuse deaths, could be used to coordinate larger policy in the department.  

The death of 18-year-old Giselle Ayala, who was found dead on April 6 in the wake of the massive street party known as Deltopia, was also on Brown’s mind, as well as the continual problems with student safety in Isla Vista.

“I want to hear what we’re doing to change that,” she said. “We’re hearing silence, and that’s not leading.”

Brown asserts that “morale has never been lower” among the sheriff’s staff.  “[Bill Brown] has given up on the mission of the department… He puts [staff] on mute.”

The incumbent sheriff has failed in numerous areas, she said, including closing the North County Jail, understaffing of the county gang unit, and ignoring increases in violent crime in Isla Vista.

She said Brown failed to anticipate the impacts of Assembly Bill 109, the “public safety realignment bill” aimed at reducing overcrowding, costs and recidivism in state prisons by allowing more convicted criminals to serve their sentences in county jails.

“Santa Barbara County needs a sheriff who can think ahead and plan ahead, a sheriff who will keep politics out of public safety, and provide the staffing required to address the problems we face,” she said. “Simply blaming the Board of Supervisors or the bad economy for budget cuts is not effective leadership.”

Sheriff Bill Brown responded later Wednesday, saying that the office doesn’t belong to any single person, but the people, and that his opponent was welcome to run for the spot.

However, “I intend on mounting a vigorous campaign,” he said. “It’s 13 months until the primary election, and for the time being, I’m going to be focused on running the organization.”

If elected, one of the first things Brown said she’d like to do is hear all of the voices throughout the department, such as the Deputy Sheriff’s Association and SEIU, to ask where they’re seeing issues that need to be addressed.

“We’re going to plug away and fix those things as a family,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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