Thursday night was the first forum to get information on the candidates who are running against Sheriff Javier Salazar. The individuals running against Salazar are, Democrats: Sharon Rodriguez, Pete Lozano, Michelle Barrientes-Vela, and Jose Trevino. Republicans running against Salazar are: Gerard “Gerry” Rickhoff, Willie Ng, and Gary Garcia. We have posted the video below but it seems to have been a streaming one that did not come across well. Rickoff was partially cut off when introducing himself and Trevino was completely cut off. We feel this is unfair to these two gentlemen so we will give you a bit of their qualifications.
Gerry Rickhoff was the County Clerk for Bexar County for over 20 years. He was first elected to office in 1995 and lost his re-election in 2018. Mr. Rickhoff has never worked in law enforcement but feels his outsider status is a plus. He does have in-depth knowledge of the bond system which is a positive when dealing with getting people out of jail. Jose Trevino worked for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office for 26 years. He has worked Detention, Patrol, been a Field Training Officer and advanced to the rank of lieutenant. He has a masters degree from Incarnate Word and his Master Peace Officer’s License. He is currently with the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Our Point of View
We want to remind everyone that this website was created to help the family and friends of people who have been incarcerated, Everyone is looking at this election in how it applies to the Sheriff’s Office and the officers. We do too but we also try to look at things from the side of the people who have to deal with the system.
There is one other thing I want to mention. One of the questions was on Michelle Barrientes-Vela’s claims of corruption, for her personally, and for the others generally. I was uncomfortable with this. I don’t care for random, frivolous claims of corruption everywhere. To me, that’s a serious charge, as I think it is to most people. And on that note, another thing I took issue with is one of the candidates saying that dishonesty is corruption. Yes. It is. That is in the official definition. But when people in law enforcement are speaking of corruption, we, the public, are thinking in terms of criminal corruption, not just dishonesty. I realize he was using it as a segue into speaking about Salazar but I think it took away from the real issue of corruption.
Sharon Rodriquez – Positive – Detention experience. We like that Rodriguez was very strong for bail reform. We think this is a difficult position because you can be perceived as being weak on crime. The reality is, it’s strong on humanity. Negative – She right away went to corruption without giving any specifics. She mentions the good ol’ boy system but is she saying that’s corrupt? What if the person actually was highly qualified? Are they to be penalized because they know people higher up? We’re not sure what she meant since she didn’t explain further. Our Observations: Rodriguez is not a strong speaker. She seemed to freeze and be at a loss for words several times. She came across as inexperienced to us.
Pete Lozano – Positive – Significant law enforcement experience. Lozano expressed concern for the way the officers have been treated. He was unhappy with the media being immediately informed when an officer was arrested. That speaks of a person who believes in innocent until proven guilty. Negative – Lozano mentioned that the officers needed to be cross trained. The Sheriff’s Office is down about 200 officers. Does he really think they aren’t already cross-trained? How else are they covering those spots on over-time if they aren’t cross-trained? Our Observations: Mr. Lozano has even less knowledge of a detention facility than say, an SAPD officer would have. This is not surprising since he worked at DPS which is higher up in the hierarchy but it means a greater learning curve. He comes across as confident.
Michelle Barrientes-Vela – Positive – Significant law enforcement experience. Elected office experience. Experience in running a law enforcement agency. She too was in favor of bail bond reform. Negative – She cited corruption and the good ol’ boy system which we’ve already given our opinion on. Regarding the bail bond reform, she said to get with the bail bond community. Uh, those are private businesses. It’s not our job to ensure they have a cash flow. We don’t need their permission. And of course, there is the fact that criminal charges have been filed against her. Our Observations: Barrientes-Vela is a decent speaker. She makes some mistakes but overall, she does a good job. She comes across as very confident.
Gerald “Gerry” Rickhoff – Positive – Significant elected office experience. Experience in running a large organization. Rickhoff was very sympathetic towards the officers. He acknowledged the stress they are under and how it can affect them negatively. He suggested programs that could be implemented to help eliminate some of the stress and was very supportive of women. Negative – No law enforcement experience. The lack of any law enforcement experience and mentioning how long his family has been in public service came across as someone who just wants to stay in politics, qualified or not. Huge learning curve. Our Observations: Mr. Rickhoff actually had some good ideas but they aren’t on the critical issues. I have doubts he would be able to relate to the officers and I have doubts of how well they would receive him. Even lacking in job specific knowledge, he is a confident person. His multiple references to supporting women show he’s an astute politician.
Jose Trevino – Positive – Detention experience. Significant law enforcement experience. Trevino showed an analytical mindset. He wanted data and analysis involved in policy decisions. He showed concern for the officers and an understanding of the stress they are under. He came prepared with solid numbers on response times. Negative – He was hesitant in his support of bail bond reform which is something we support. He commented on his concern for recidivism. Our Observations: We liked his knowledge and obvious preference for a data-driven, scientific approach to apportioning manpower and policy making. He came across as very knowledgeable and confident.
Willie Ng – Positive – Significant law enforcement experience. Ng was no less knowledgeable than Trevino but he had a slightly more relatable way of speaking. He also did the best job of going after the current administration. He showed concern for the officers and stressed the need for additional training to solve the current problems. He didn’t come prepared with numbers but he did come with a relatable personal analogy that he skillfully used to attack Salazar. Negative – He, too, was hesitant about bail bond reform. Ng commented that he didn’t want it to become a revolving door. Our Observation – Ng’s knowledge was readily evident. He is very active in his charitable endeavors. He came across as relaxed and confident.
Gary Garcia – Positive – Significant law enforcement experience. While I believe Rickoff mentioned the civilians at the Sheriff’s Office, Garcia was very emphatic on the need to include them. This was refreshing. It was nice to hear one of the candidates be so concerned about taking care of the civilians also. They are mostly overlooked. Negative – Garcia had an ‘I just know’ attitude regarding how to fix problems. Another area he was emphatic in was not needing data or committees. He also was fast to blame others (Commissioners Court) and he insulted the officers saying the booking sergeants don’t know how to read a booking slip. Garcia was against bail bond reform. Our Observations: At first it seemed that Garcia had a good speaking voice but it began to turn into yelling at the audience. At least, that’s the way our person said it felt. How do you earn trust and respect if people feel they are being yelled at? We also feel that people who think they ‘know’ what is wrong without doing any research, have a harder time accepting when they are wrong. Regarding the slur against the officers, they already have someone in charge who badmouths them. I doubt they are looking to replace him with the same.
Our final verdict is that both Jose Trevino and Willie Ng did excellent jobs. We feel Michelle Barrientes-Vela came in with a decent showing after those two. We look forward to an actual debate which will test their in-depth knowledge and ability to think under stressful conditions. We barely touched on the topics and answers and highly recommend that you watch the video. We know it freezes, just stay watching. It will come back on.
Wait, you may say. Somethings not right. Something’s missing. Shouldn’t a Sheriff’s Forum actually have the Sheriff involved in it? Why, yes. Yes, it should. But apparently Javier Salazar found a way to avoid going. How strangely convenient that he managed to have a conflicting event scheduled. We just recently wrote on the forum he had with Pamerleau back in 2015. I guess he really liked having historical data on her when she didn’t have anything on him but I don’t think he liked it now that the shoe’s on the other foot. And boy do these candidates have a boatload of ammunition to use against Salazar. To make matters worse, he’s only good at scripted speeches. Answering on the fly is not his strong point. Let’s see if he continues to find ways to weasel out of having to answer for the failures of his administration.