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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Election for Yolo County’s next sheriff coming up

Deputy Tommy Hayes challenges current sheriff Tom Lopez

By RACHEL SHEY city@theaggie.org

Voters in the June 7 primary election in Yolo County will be able to select Yolo County’s next sheriff. Tom Lopez, the current sheriff, is running for re-election, while a current deputy, Tommy Hayes, challenges Lopez. The sheriff’s department patrols the unincorporated portions of Yolo County, according to Lopez, in addition to performing many other important duties. 

“We provide patrol just like a police department does, however, our patrol area is the unincorporated area of the county, which means that the folks that live there don’t live in a city,”  Lopez said. 

Lopez described the sheriff’s department as quite far-ranging, taking care of many other integral services in Yolo County. Lopez is not only a sheriff but also the public administrator, which addresses the burial and belongings of people who die without someone to arrange their burials. 

“We also have several different divisions that a police department doesn’t have,” Lopez said. “One of those is a detention division; the sheriff has a county jail and we house all inmates in Yolo County. We are in charge of the care and custody of up to 450 inmates. Currently today we have about 280 inmates in our jail.”

Both candidates strongly emphasize the importance of treating people with respect. According to Lopez, his respect for Yolo County citizens comes from his days as a resident deputy, a role which involves policing your own neighborhood. 

My philosophy is that when we come in contact with folks out on the street, everybody should be treated as a neighbor,” Lopez said. “One day you might be helping your neighbor build a fence, and the next day you may have to arrest your neighbor for a crime they may have committed. But the day after that, you’re still neighbors. You need to treat people with dignity and respect.” 

Hayes cites the same need to respect those that the deputies deal with, but said that this as a function that the current sheriff’s department has failed to perform. He said he hopes to address this issue if he is elected. 

“Starting off, I want to change the dynamics on how it’s run from the management,” Hayes said. “Our management runs it in the old ways of doing things. Policing used to be basically, ‘You’re gonna do this because I have a gun and a badge.’ Nowadays things have changed, now you ask people to do things before you use force or anything like that.”

One of the ways that Hayes hopes to increase transparency between citizens and the sheriff’s department is to create an advisory committee, which would include citizens from several cities in Yolo County. 

“Another thing I want to do is provide a citizen’s advisory board, which will work in direct communication with citizens throughout the whole county,” Hayes said. “There will be select citizens from each area in Yolo County and they can directly have meetings with the sheriff and discuss what they need for their area and what they expect.”

Lopez is currently working on body cameras for deputies, a project which has been underway for two years. Although the sheriff’s department is one of the last departments in the county to obtain body cameras, it was the first to have dash cameras. 

“Anyone can go out and buy a camera and put it on their shirt, but there’s a lot of work that goes on in the background, like where do those recordings go, when we get public records request, who’s going to redact the information?” Lopez said. “In this fiscal year, we received the positions that will make the body cameras work, and we are in the process of selecting the body cameras that we are going to be using. By December, we will be up and running with body cameras.”

Hayes also stated that body cameras would be part of the changes that he hopes to instate among the deputies. He was not aware of Lopez’s plan, and cited this as an example of the lack of transparency in the department. 

“Our agency is the last agency to have body cameras in the county,” Hayes said. “I know other agencies are looking at newer technology. If our agency is looking at body cameras, it has not been communicated to us, which a lot of information isn’t, since we aren’t very transparent with our own employees let alone our own community.”

Written by: Rachel Shey — city@theaggie.org


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