Harris Seeking “Cultural Change From The Top Down” In Run For County Sheriff

(April 29) Cliff Harris is running for San Bernardino County sheriff, he said, “because first of all, I want to change the culture of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. I want to stop the institutionalized abuse of the inmates in the jails and on the streets. I want to stop racial profiling. I want to establish a human rights commissions and civil rights commission with subpoena powers.  I want to implement written guiding principles and use those principles as the basis for the department and the county’s residents to move into the 21st Century and so everyone can stay on the same page.”
Harris said he believes establishing defined standards, goals and guidelines is key to raising law enforcement function in San Bernardino County to the level of professionalism that has been lacking historically.
“I want to implement a set of written values and address all identifiable problems,” Harris said. “I want on an ongoing basis to announce to the communities the substantial changes that will be made in the department affecting the delivery of services to the community. My bottom line is moving the department into the 21st Century as I stated, to transform the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department from where it is today to a better organization. The potential to do that exists because of the many good men and women there. There has been a lack of consideration of the economic and sociological issues associated with our society so that what we have is a culture of officers enforcing their own personal belief system on citizens due to the lack of leadership.”
Harris said he anticipates encountering resistance to his reforms, but believes he has the determination and strength of will and character to push them through.
“The changes I have indicated I would like to make would be difficult but with those changes and the ability to manage the change, we will conduct business in a way that is more acceptable to our citizens,” he said. “I intend to bring citizens into an oversight role within the department and end the adversarial relationship that exists in many parts of the county between the department’s deputies and citizens.  I want to bring modern technology into the process,  meaning we should start utilizing what’s available – optical storage disks, chips, artificial intelligence,  parallel processing,  optical computers,  nanotechnology, the list goes on. For the residents, these are difficult to understand let alone embrace. But they represent important tracking capabilities that will help us reduce crime and use our man-and-womanpower in a more effective manner.  I want law enforcement to participate in the developing era of information technology used throughout the country to better serve communities.”
Harris said he will be strict with his command echelon in forcing it to be strict with the department staff.
“I want to demand and will demand accountability for all managers in my administration  and that way we will be able to let our citizens know what they are getting for their money,” he said. “I will have the performance with regard to every member of the department prominently displayed and I will have that information incorporated into negotiations, so the cities we serve can see what they are getting for their money. I believe in the principle of holding those working for the public accountable and engaging in a philosophy of service that gives the public a clear picture of what the department believes in. By having consistent overall values and goals for the department, we will take away the guesswork about what we are trying to achieve and what we are doing. This principle will also provide the same basis for operational strategies and a framework through which all branches of the department will operate and this will make evaluation easier for those on the outside.”
He believes in swift and intensive policing operations in dealing with bona fide criminality,  Harris said.
“Under my leadership, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department will react in a way that emphasizes crime prevention through vigorous law enforcement,” he said. “I want to embed a message that intensive preventative law enforcement is important as a deterrent. The department must establish a commitment to work with the community to help the community help us.   Vigorous enforcement and vigorous  prosecution of the perpetrators who prey on our citizens will address those in community who will make accusations of the department being too weak.”
Fair and unbiased enforcement is a requisite, Harris said.
“As a democratic society we must project that we stand for democratic values,” he said. “Every deputy sheriff must be a living expression of the values and potential for the democracy we serve.  I will implement a new way of thinking, so that we embrace the community and become advocates for the community.”
Harris is one of three candidates in this year’s race. He is challenging John McMahon, the incumbent sheriff, who was appointed to the post following the resignation of former sheriff Rod Hoops midway through his term less than two years ago. Also running is Paul Schrader, a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“I believe if you look at our backgrounds and our education and my vision, the difference between us is obvious,” Harris said of McMahon and Schrader. “I have not heard or seen vision from the other two candidates. They may have vision, but they have not expressed it. I have looked at their websites. I don’t see anything that stands out about what they believe. I have not heard them talk about fair and equitable treatment of all citizens. I have not heard about what they consider to be our role within the law. I have not heard about our youth. I will engage our youth through elements of service. Our society has changed. Part of that change is we do not deal with the challenges we face, law enforcement and otherwise, just by locking people up. That is not to say we will not be putting people, and in this case I am talking primarily about young people, in jail. If the offense is large enough and serious enough, we will not hesitate to jail people. But we have to be careful that we deal with young people who are at risk of embracing a criminal lifestyle in a way that is not counterproductive and we must take care not to push them into a life of crime by exposing them to hardened criminals who will then mentor them into a far more serious world of criminality. We have created more criminals by the sheriff’s department’s current policies in dealing with juveniles than we have turned around.”
Harris said, “The biggest part of law enforcement should ideally be crime prevention and deterrence. I have spent time in the academic world. That has given me a chance to look at the other side of society, not just that involved in law enforcement. I am advocating emphasizing human rights and civil rights protection. All I have heard from the others is the need to build more prisons. We are never going to prison build our way out of the situation we are in socially. In today’s world we have to be flexible and have flexible policies to deal with what is changing. This county needs different medicine to deal with different problems. I have not heard from either of the other candidates about accountability, integrity, equal law enforcement or respect for others.”
A San Bernardino High School graduate, Harris attended college at the University of La Verne, where he obtained a degree in business. He served in the U.S. Army. He held various jobs, including management training positions with J.C. Penney and Ford Motor Company.  After a two year stint as a reserve deputy with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s department from 1994 to 1996, Harris was hired as a deputy. He remained with the department until 1991, having achieved the rank of detective. He subsequently hired on with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, remaining in that assignment until he retired in 1999.
He is currently a newspaper publisher.

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