Murphys, CA…It is the obligation of every government to provide for the public safety and security of its citizens. For local jurisdictions this responsibility includes the provision of law enforcement, fire protection, and health care. In many localities, such as Calaveras County, the only direct input the public has in how these services are delivered is limited to the election of a Sheriff to manage law enforcement.
This year Calaveras County will select one of three Sheriff candidates. Given the extraordinary dysfunctionality of the current Board of Supervisors and the fact that the Sheriff’s Office represents the largest portion of the County’s discretionary budget, this just might be the most important decision voters make about the leadership of their county government.
Is one candidate better than the others? And if so, in what ways and how big a difference will that make to law enforcement services in Calaveras County?
To answer these questions, I attended several public forums in which one or more of the candidates were presenting themselves and their qualifications. I collected a range of campaign literature, newspaper articles, and TV interviews with the candidates. I also asked a sample of residents from different parts of the county to identify their most important issues regarding public safety and the degree to which they believed that any of these candidates addressed their concerns.
I have mapped these responses to what I believe are the essential qualifications for a law enforcement executive. The standards that I drew upon rely on my own experience from ten years of policy research and administration in providing advice and analysis to police commissioners, prosecutors, and agencies in major U.S. cities and with the United States Department of Justice. From that experience, I believe there are six crucial qualifications for success as a law enforcement executive: career experience, education, leadership, management skills, community engagement, and integrity. So, how do our Sheriff candidates meet those standards? And how well do they align with citizen interests? I summarize my conclusions below in the order of what I believe is an objective assessment of their qualifications.
SUMMARY: After a review of the data, public statements, and public opinion, I strongly endorse Pat Garrahan as being highly qualified to serve as Sheriff. Using the same standards, I believe that Rick Basilio is qualified (with reservations) and that Gary Stevens is unqualified. The justification for this endorsement and assessment is outlined below.
Given the information to which I had access, I consider one candidate, Pat Garrahan, as highly qualified to be the next Sheriff for Calaveras County.
• Career Experience: He served as a uniformed officer for twenty-seven years in Oakland CA and Flagstaff AZ. Moreover, he served as military policeman in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years. The breadth of his experience is reflected in his assignments to major crimes, emergency services/sniper, canine operations, and patrol units. He received more than four awards for valor or merit.
• Education: Garrahan holds a M.S. degree in criminology from Indiana State University and a B.A. in criminal justice administration from Columbia College in Columbia MO.
• Leadership: Throughout his police career, his professional experience and reputation was recognized by continually being assigned as an instructor in the Police Academy in Oakland and Flagstaff. After retiring from the Oakland Police Department, he served for four years on a knowledge transfer program for law enforcement under the auspices of the Defense Department, including deployments to Afghanistan.
• Management: Garrahan was twice promoted within the Oakland Police Department – first to Sergeant and, after three years, was promoted again to Lieutenant, during which time he served as Acting Captain and as Watch Commander in the Patrol Division.
• Community Engagement: It is my understanding that Garrahan has lived in Calaveras County for more than twenty-five years. During this time has served on a variety of community organizations as a board member or in some other leading capacity: local fire district, veterans district, Rotary Club, and the Resource Connection, as well as being a member of a wide variety of other community groups.
• Integrity: In speaking with persons who have known Garrahan for several years or more and in different capacities, all agree that his motive for running for Sheriff is his real belief that his experience and management skills can make a difference. He exemplifies a consistent career path that has been committed to law enforcement and does not appear to be seeking this position for any other reason than improving law enforcement services to the residents of Calaveras County. His policy positions are based on economic efficiency and enforcement efficacy, not political interests.
The incumbent Sheriff came to his position as the result of an appointment following the unexpected death of Sheriff Gary Kuntz. I rate Rick DiBasilio as qualified with reservations.
To be clear, it is hard not to like Rick DiBasilio. He is very affable and approachable. He is a local boy “done good” and in the absence of the leadership turmoil at the Board of Supervisors, DiBasilio would be qualified with no reservations. However, in my opinion, we need a chief law enforcement officer that has the experience, confidence, and will to stand-up to the confusion created by some Board members who inappropriately insist on meddling in the administration of county operations. In this very important sense, I am concerned that Rick is “just too nice”.
• Career Experience: Rick began his law enforcement career with the Calaveras Sheriff’s Office where he has served for nearly sixteen years. He has been promoted up through the ranks from patrol to detective to Sergeant. It was from this rank that he was selected as interim Sheriff.
• Education: DiBasilio graduated from high school in San Diego. He has completed a variety of training programs run by professional organizations and state entities.
• Leadership: Rick DiBasilio has proven to be a popular leader among his fellow Deputy Sheriff’s. Before being appointed to interim Sheriff, he was the President of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association and has received the endorsement of a broad swath of the current Sheriff’s Office staff. When he was first being considered for appointment as interim Sheriff, the existing Board of Supervisors initially was split among the candidates with two preferring DiBasilio and three other Supervisors endorsing an equal number of other candidates. It is to DiBasilio’s credit that he ultimately convinced four Board Supervisors to support his appointment.
• Management: DiBasilio served in middle management (Sergeant) in the Sheriff’s Office before his appointment to Sheriff. In considering his appearances before the current Board of Supervisors, the jury is out as to his effectiveness. He appears to rely much too frequently on his two Captains, who were his superiors before being appointed Sheriff.
• Community Engagement: Like Garrahan, DiBasilio has a long relationship with Calaveras County going back to when his father acquired the Dorrington Store in the late seventies. He has been involved in a variety of community organizations, served as a foster parent, and been actively involved in school programs in the County.
• Integrity: No one with whom I spoke could suggest any reason to doubt DiBasilio’s moral or political integrity. If he has a fault in this area, it comes out in community meetings when he refers to State laws that he claims inhibit his ability to fully enforce the laws. DiBasilio isn’t different from other law enforcement professionals in this regard, except that he seems to offer this complaint in cases where he seeks to deflect community criticism about issues unrelated to the laws with which he takes issue. This suggests that his integrity might be compromised, not by moral or political issues, but from a lack of management experience. I have confidence he could grow into meeting this challenge but worry that the incompetence of some of the Board of Supervisors might not give him the time to do so.
I consider Gary Stevens to be unqualified.
• Career Experience: Stevens has been a law enforcement officer for twenty-eight years, first with the Calaveras Sheriff’s Office, after which transferred to the Amador County Sheriff’s Office, and then, once again, began to work as an investigator for the Amador District Attorney. Unlike other candidates, he has not made the kind of institutional or career commitment that inspires confidence, but rather has moved from one job to another. This career-hopping is not assuring when it comes to being the stalwart leader of an institution such as the Sheriff’s Office.
• Education: Stevens has received three community college degrees (A.A.) in law enforcement, wildlife law enforcement, and social science.
• Leadership: His public record indicates that he is a good investigator and has been the lead investigator on an array of cases in the Amador District Attorney’s office. Indeed, Stevens was recently named Outstanding Investigator of the Year by the California District Attorney’s Association. However, most of his successes are attributed to limited engagements with small teams singularly focused on solving specific investigations. This kind of leadership success does not scale up to the challenges facing a senior executive managing larger teams, budgets, and a difficult political environment.
• Management: Stevens has no line management (middle or senior) in law enforcement. In public interviews, he defers this question to examples of his investigative leadership. He fails to understand the difference between team leadership and management leadership.
• Community Engagement: Like Garrahan and DiBasilio, Stevens lives in the west part of the county and has been active in community organizations in that part of the county.
• Integrity: Gary Stevens has acknowledged in interviews with the press that he thinks given the resources available to it, the Sheriff’s Office is doing a good job. The problem, he believes, is a deficiency of leadership. When asked to define the characteristics of this problem, he demurs. His primary target, in both policy and politics, is cannabis. In fact, taking the sum of interviews, cannabis appears to be the real reason for his run for office. I could find no mention of how he would address the much more serious plague of heroin and methamphetamines. This suggests that while he appears to have no moral integrity issues, he is likely to be seriously challenged when faced with equitably and independently addressing policy issues more complex than simply enforcing a cannabis ban.
• The basis for rating Stevens as unqualified is grounded in his lack of experience in law enforcement management, the absence of any discernible public leadership record, and serious questions about his ability to have a balanced policy approach to the administration of justice. His enthusiasm is admirable, but it is no substitute for real experience when it comes to being Sheriff of this county.
As the result of this analysis, I endorse Pat Garrahan for Calaveras County Sheriff.
John MacWillie, PhD is a native of Calaveras County, worked in law enforcement policy in New York City where he authored or co-authored monographs and papers on policing and prosecution, taught in the Criminal Justice Administration program at California State University – East Bay, and is a noted expert on surveillance and information security with work in the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Disclosure: This analysis was done without the knowledge, support, or assistance of any of the candidates. None of the candidates reviewed this document prior to its publication. The author is not associated with any of the candidates or their campaigns.