Editorial - Why the El Dorado County Sheriff Rocks

by Placerville Newswire / Jul 21, 2018 / comments

[Cris Alarcon]

Almost a decade ago I wanted a new Sheriff.  I liked our prior Sheriff personally but he had allowed a “Us vs. Them” culture to develop that let some real tragedies to occur.  I talked to our current Sheriff when he was a candidate and asked only two things to get my support: Work to make the Sheriff Deputies a part of the community, not apart from the community; to treat all citizens equally regardless of money or station.

Sheriff John D’Agostini has done so at every turn.  From the wealthiest “name” to the lowest repeat offending  dirtbag, he has treated all with dignity and respect every human deserves, as he hooks them up and locks them down.  

Treating all citizens with equal justice has been a hallmark of this Sheriff’s administration, but the second part was much harder. As a layman with Zero law enforcement experience I had no idea of how difficult it is to break down the Silo effect called the “us vs them” culture in law enforcement.  When your life is often at risk and the number of people you can trust to “have your back” is limited, you naturally feel safe with those you know you can trust, and to be wary of those you must think might try to hurt you at any time and without provocation. I get that as an occupational danger to get trapped in a feeling that you cannot trust the public.  But I stand by my campaign slogan I used in the Sheriff’s first campaign, “The best tool law enforcement has is a trusting and friendly citizenry.”

So how does a Sheriff get the public to like and trust cops?  That is a tall order as no one likes getting a ticket, or worse, going to jail.  Here is his latest way [I am putting the link to the video at the end of this story as I know you will click it, smile, and share it, and never come back to this story].

It is not just our Sheriff that struggles to make a culture that promotes trust and and giving a personal face to law enforcement.  A little while ago a national challenge was issued to help accomplish this important task that benefits law enforcement as much as those they protect every day, called the “Lip Sync Challenge” where the Sheriff’s department was to make a public video of the department Lip Syncing a song to show a personal and friendly face for the department.  And it was issued in the form of a challenge, with allowances for those that “were not up to the challenge”... Well we know that those men and women that run into danger when we are running away, can’t hardly pass up a challenge!

The video has been a tremendous hit getting thousands of views as soon as it was released at the end of the day on July 18th.  By the next morning it had been seen over 100,000 times, 250,000 times by lunch, and half a million times by the end of the day.  Today it has been seen by over one million views. To put some perspective on that, that is 5 time the population of all of EL Dorado county!

But this story is not about that great video, it is about a great Sheriff.

As a political consultant I would have told the Sheriff to run with the Lip Sync Challenge as it had some dangers but the opportunity for good PR outweigh the dangers.  Our Sheriff takes his own counsel on political matters, not mine.

Let me note right here that I promoted the Lip Sync Challenge a few days before the Sheriff released this video but my poke had nothing to due with this coincidence.  The video had already been made when I issued my challenge, I deserve NO credit as it just lucky timing on my part. All of the credit goes to the men and women of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office.

At the end of the first viewing, I was left feeling happy and with a smile on my face.  A homerun. But something seemed missing...where was the Sheriff? I did not see Sheriff John D’Agostini in the video.  I did see the frontline deputies that we always see. I know the Sheriff’s office does not work with just those front-end officers, that a lot of work goes on to support those on the frontline.  In this video I saw many officers that I had never seen before. Like the dispatchers. We may have talked to them, and they may have saved our behinds without us even knowing it. It was the first time I have seen them spotlighted.  I think I saw almost every division represented well in this video.

What I saw was real people of our community, looking and acting just like we do.  Cutting up, having fun, just like one of us. Highlighting the fact that they are us, and we are them.

What I did not see is just as remarkable.  I did not see the Sheriff using this public relations tool for self aggrandizement.  Getting elected is tough business and any elected officeholder uses every opportunity to increase their public image in hopes of easing their next election cycle.  So I do not have any issue with any Sheriff taking a big part in their “Lip Sync Challenge” response. The fact is that our Sheriff passed up on the opportunity to gain personally from the video, and instead highlighted all of the EDSO's hard working employees. A video that highlights that our law enforcement are men and women of our own community. Just like us.

That tells me that our Sheriff ROCKS.

Now for the video, on Facebook at the EDSO website:  https://www.facebook.com/eldoradosheriff/videos/vb.432355796972311/895850323956187/?type=2&theater

Cris Alarcon.

Let me explain why those two issues are so important to me. I am fortunate enough to live long enough to change my ways but I was not an upstand citizen when I was younger. In fact I was a rebellious young man that enjoyed hard drinking and breaking laws as a challenge, nothing heinous, but criminal nonetheless.  I was untrusting of law enforcement from my earliest years. Growing up in South Lake Tahoe in the ‘60s with a father that was high up in casino management, I knew first-hand many corrupt cops that would allow known monied lawbreakers to walk while hooking up the unfavored for made up offenses [or just beating them up in an elevator ride from the top floor of the casino to the parking lot level where the beaten body was shoved out, without any report!]  That was Tahoe in the early days. When my family moved from Tahoe to Placerville I met L.E. as my oldest brother was headed for CYA and I still remember the Sheriff looking down his nose and saying. “We know what kind of people come from Tahoe.” Growing up my opinion of law enforcement was low.

Eventually I learned that if I wanted to live the kind of life I wanted, I had to change my ways and to support those that supported that kind of life, including law enforcement.  But I had to build a trust of law enforcement, and that took years. I needed to understand that they are more than a faceless uniform behind a badge and a gun. That meant that I had to meet some people from law enforcement, as people.  Real, normal people from my own community.

This video goes a long way in reminding me that all cops are just regular folks from our community doing a hard job.

Thank you Sheriff John D'Agostini for helping me, and others, to see our law enforcement for what they are, our friends and neighbors.

Cris Alarcon.