Calif. assemblyman set to compete against chief deputy for office of Sacramento sheriff

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A California legislator is set to once again campaign for the office of Sacramento County Sheriff.

Assm. Jim Cooper of District 9 announced his candidacy Thursday at a briefing attended by other elected officials endorsing Cooper’s run, such as the mayors of Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova and Citrus Heights. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who is in the middle of her own campaign — seeking to become California’s next attorney general — was also in attendance.

“It’s time for a fresh look at public safety,” Cooper said. “Right now, there isn’t a lot of accountability. As sheriff, I really want to work with folks and make a change.”

The 30-year law enforcement veteran pledged to tackle the county’s homeless issue and the rise in violent crime. Cooper also said he planned to have a far more visible presence working alongside deputies and strengthening community relationships compared to outgoing Sheriff Scott Jones. 

“You gotta work with other people and really be a bridge-builder,” Cooper said. “That’s the person I am. But when it comes to enforcing the law, I have no problem doing that either.”

Cooper’s entry into the race means he would relinquish the four years still left of his Assembly term. He previously served as a captain with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, and as the Mayor of Elk Grove. As a legislator, Cooper authored bills advocating for public safety, cracking down on sexual predators and school gun violence. 

Cooper, who lost to Jones in 2010, is challenging Sacramento County Chief Deputy Jim Barnes, who announced his candidacy in February last year. Sheriff Jones endorsed Barnes for the position. 

“This is Scott Jones 2.0,” Cooper said of his opponent. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think I bring the experience.” 

Chief Deputy Barnes is a 22-year veteran of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office and has worked at all levels of the department, from corrections to patrol to homicide investigations. He now manages more than 600 officers and staff. 

“I’m a protector and not a politician, and that’s something I pride myself on,” Barnes said. “There are some fundamental changes we need to make to law enforcement. I know I have the leadership to do so.”

Barnes said he is already starting to introduce risk assessment programs and services to address homelessness and inmates struggling with mental health. 

“We’re doing the work; we’re not just talking about it,” Barnes said. “Getting service providers attached to the offender as soon as they get through the door, so that relationship, that trust is built, and a success plan is built when they get back into our community.”

If elected, Barnes said he plans to prioritize building trust in his officers and department and working closely with community leaders to ensure a high level of public service and safety.

“We need to just listen and understand,” Barnes said. “We need to find a way to work together. I’ve been doing it, shoulder to shoulder, and I will continue doing this as the next sheriff.”

Barnes said he welcomes the opportunity to debate Cooper. 

“I will tell you it’s interesting [Cooper] is coming from a place with all the money and influence to make changes to homelessness, and nothing’s been done,” Barnes said.

The election for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office kicks off in June. Ballots to vote will be mailed out at the beginning of May. If neither candidate receives at least 50% of the vote, it will go to a runoff election in November.