Not since her first election has Sheriff Laurie Smith faced this fierce a political battle. Anonymous bloggers supporting her opponent, retired sheriff’s Capt. Kevin Jensen, have pilloried her character, slinging cheap shots and exploiting high-profile teen deaths in political hits. There has been a lot of dirt but little substance to the attacks.
Unions representing deputies and jail guards have poured massive resources into supporting a candidate who worked for Smith before retiring a year ago to run against her. Jensen’s a middle manager without a public record to run on, so it’s anyone’s guess what kind of sheriff he’d be. He’s basically letting the unions and political consultants run the show.
Since she was elected as the state’s first female sheriff, Smith has reformed and professionalized the department. She hasn’t been afraid to hold the rank and file accountable, and that’s ruffled some feathers.
Smith has delivered cost-effective police services to Silicon Valley communities and helped turn around failing agencies, including the Medical Examiner/Coroner’s office and Valley Medical Center security. She also took over the county’s jail system, which was rife with dysfunction under Jensen’s watch as assistant chief. And she’s used Valley Transit Authority officers to clean up drug dealing at light rail stations when SJPD cut positions downtown.
Nobody’s record is mistake-free, but Smith’s accomplishments far outweigh any of the criticisms of her leadership.