San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore has said that he will not be running for re-election in 2022, which paves the way for a new person to take the job.
Current Undersheriff Kelly Martinez has announced her candidacy. She is the first woman to hold the position of Undersheriff in the department's history and if elected, would be the first woman Sheriff in the San Diego County Sheriff Department's over 170-year history.
Martinez has almost 40 years of experience with the sheriff's department and has been endorsed by several top local Democrats, including Mayor Todd Gloria and Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. Martinez herself switched her party registration from Republican to Democrat in 2020.
"Before I even thought about running for office, I was really reacting in a personal way to what I was seeing in the political environment and the Sheriff's, position of Sheriff, is not a partisan position, it really has nothing to do with party affiliation, it has to do with public safety and so, honestly, it was just really a personal decision," Martinez said.
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Martinez is running for Sheriff at a time when there is increased scrutiny on law enforcement agencies across the United States. Protests in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd called for increased transparency and accountability in law enforcement agencies. When asked about law enforcement agencies, including San Diego Sheriff's Department disproportionately stopping and searching African Americans at a higher rate than their proportion of the population, Martinez said they're working on it.
"That’s the data that’s coming back, so it's absolutely a discussion that we’re having right now with our communities and with our deputies and the people working in this field and in this environment right now," she said.
Another priority Martinez hopes to tackle if elected is the need for more mental health specialists working in the jails. She says she was happy to see the County Board of Supervisors approve funding to hire more people with mental health expertise for the jail system.
In recent days, the sheriff's department has been criticized after a PSA video was released by Sheriff Bill Gore that he says shows a deputy overdosing on fentanyl.
In the video, body camera footage documents a deputy warning a trainee about exposure to a white substance suspected to be fentanyl. After exposure, the trainee appears to lose consciousness. Some drug experts say there have been no known reports of airborne overdoses occurring as a result of fentanyl and that the video is spreading disinformation.
Martinez said the department is "working through that and the Sheriff has been very articulate in his response and there will be more to come."
Some critics have asked if the video was in fact, body camera video.
"It was absolutely body-worn camera video taken from a body-worn camera. It is actual footage. We would never put out anything that was false," Martinez said.
Right now, the Sheriff's Department needs a "continuity in leadership," according to Martinez, and that's why she thinks she's the right person for the job.
Dave Myers, a 33-year veteran of the sheriff's department is expected to announce his candidacy for Sheriff in the coming days. Myers ran and lost against Sheriff Bill Gore in 2018.