Sheriff's candidate

February 16, 2002

Ernie Mendoza

Age: 54

Residence: Brawley

Family: wife, Stella; three sons

Occupation: Imperial County Sheriff's Office chief deputy in charge of corrections

Education: associate's degree in psychology and sociology from Imperial Valley College; certificate from the FBI National Academy; plans to finish bachelor's degree in criminal justice at San Diego State University

Community service: past president, Lions Club noon-timers in Calexico; past member, American Field Service as host parent; past member, Optimist Club; member, Hidalgo Society and American Citizens Club in Brawley, and Mexican American Political Association; past president, High Technology Criminal Investigators' Association, Imperial Valley chapter; sponsor, Westmorland Boxing Against Drugs program


"Myself, my family, we are about community service and we fully believe one person can make a difference."

For nearly 32 years Ernie Mendoza has been a member of the Imperial County Sheriff's Office and wants to use his years of experience to serve the county as sheriff.

Mendoza, chief deputy in charge of corrections, said he is ready to bring positive change to assure the department meets the needs of the public.

"Law enforcement is like no other job in the world," he said. "When you are asleep we are still working. When you are gone you trust that law enforcement is going to be there 24 hours a day.

"That is what the public expects and that is what we must provide. We need to be attentive to the people's needs. Those needs must be the focus of what the Sheriff's Office provides."

Mendoza said he has gone into communities and spoken to people to seek a report on how the department is doing in serving the public.

"I found that we were lacking in certain areas and this is the leadership focus I wish to provide to address those issues."

For one, Mendoza said, service to outlying areas of the county needs to improve. He said he wants to work toward placing resident deputies in outlying communities.

"There seems to be a consensus in the outlying areas that we have lost a very basic element in law enforcement and that is trust," Mendoza said.

He said the goal is to lower response time in outlying areas by placing more uniformed officers in such areas. In doing so, Mendoza said the department could be more proactive rather than reactive in responding to crime.

"If we are going to fulfill our obligation to the outlying areas, including the community of Heber, I need to address the issue of providing resident deputies assigned to individual communities."

Mendoza said he is concerned that deputies are being placed in situations where they have to work overtime for special projects, which creates situations where they are tired during their normal patrols. He said that situation needs to change because it can prove harmful in terms of the deputies' performance and safety.

"Overtime should not be used to run large projects that are going to cause our manpower to lose their edge to perform," he said. "They become tired, they become injured because of working too many hours."

Mendoza said he would analyze what the department needs to provide basic services, including patrols, investigations and corrections.

He said once those staffing issues are addressed, he would work with the county Board of Supervisors to build additional manpower for support services.

Mendoza said another goal he has is to be a more accessible sheriff.

"In comparison to my opponent, the people need someone they can readily contact in an emergency," he said. "It's clear inaccessibility has been a concern expressed to me by several citizens and I wish to address that."

Mendoza said he already has committed himself to attending public meetings and gatherings in communities to make himself accessible.

Other goals Mendoza has for the department include collaborating with department heads and professionals to meet the needs of the courts and other law enforcement agencies; designate drug forfeiture funds to supplement the sheriff's budget; treat employees with respect and dignity; ensure promotions are fair and impartial; work with schools to educate youths about anti-violence programs; and establish a public relations department to recruit new staff.

Mendoza addressed the issue of the Imperial County Sheriffs Association, the deputies union, endorsing Carter.

"I expected the association to endorse the incumbent," he said. "It takes courage for an employee to go against the incumbent. In an election the incumbent has the advantage when it comes to endorsements."

Mendoza added he has been endorsed by the National Immigration and Naturalization Service Council Local 2805.

On the issue of a privatized prison being built in the Imperial Valley for federal Immigration and Naturalization Service detainees, Mendoza said he cannot support such a project as proposed.

"My concerns are that the issue of safety to the public and staff have not been addressed," he said, adding he has concerns about such a project becoming a financial burden for taxpayers.

Mendoza said on March 5, the final decision will rest with the voters.

"Whoever the sheriff may be, he needs to be someone who projects a positive image, especially under adversity," he said.

"I offer positive change and my job is to convince the voters that I can make these changes a reality."

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