Santa Clara County Sheriff Candidate Joseph LaJuenesse Butts Heads with Union Leaders

Despite working 14 years as a deputy for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, Joseph LaJeunesse still very much feels like an outsider. The 47-year-old ex-U.S. Army major hopes to defeat his boss, Sheriff Laurie Smith, 65, in the 2018 election, but he has little support within the ranks and a strained relationship with his union. When the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (DSA) invited him last month to talk to members about his qualifications, the union’s event notice cited his deputy rank but made no mention of his military service. LaJeunesse called the omission proof that the union is biased toward his other opponent, retired Undersheriff John Hirokawa, 60. That set off a heated exchange on Facebook with Kevin Jensen, a retired captain and failed 2014 sheriff’s candidate, who accused LaJeunesse of slander. LaJeunesse says his career at the sheriff’s office got off to a similarly rocky start. When the Army deployed LaJeunesse in 2003 to Iraq—a month into police academy—the sheriff’s office asked him to resign, he claims. “By federal law, you can’t do that,” he says. “You can’t ask people to resign if they’re serving the country in war.” But LaJeunesse hopes his outsider status helps differentiate him from the five-term incumbent and her former second-in-command, Hirokawa, who together oversaw the agency during a series of high-profile jail scandals. The deputy—believed to be the first person to run against Smith while still working for her—says his 27 years in the military make him uniquely qualified for the job. For one thing, LaJeunesse says, he served at Abu Ghraib prison as it enacted sweeping reforms after the infamous torture scandal. LaJeunesse says that experience gives him insight into how to transform Santa Clara County’s jails, which have been slow to adopt reforms in the years since three deputies murdered mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree.

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10 Comments

  1. Let me dig up my old phone. The texts between Joe/Don are nothing compared to what Joe has sent to me… Over silly stuff. Thin skin, thinner than Trump. Not fit to take command. I’ll dig up some FB screen shots too because it looks like Joe put the clamp down on his FB account.

  2. Fly this is the most interesting artical you have scribbled out in quite awhile. Maybe you could interview the Major on his opinions about the other burning problems we have in California.

  3. Given the chance to sell his ideas and himself to his peers, the deputy’s decision to make an issue over what the DSA considers sufficiently relevant for inclusion on a meeting flyer is a peculiar one. Presuming the opportunity was to speak to the issues, as opposed to a chance to parade about in his military dress blues, Deputy LaJeunesse should’ve set aside his personal quibbles and focused his efforts on making his case to the membership that his military experience qualifies him to lead, despite his entry-level rank and unexceptional level of experience with the department.

    Of course, if his real intent in this was to find a way to solidify and make public his outsider status (by way of no-cost campaign publicity), then mission accomplished.

    • “The deputy—believed to be the first person to run against Smith while still working for her”

      What? We’ve forgotten about our other beloved court deputy, Joe Charvez, so quickly? Oh wait, he wasn’t really running, just pretending so he could try to draw off support from Laurie’s competition. I can see why you didn’t mention him.

      • Sorry, that wasn’t supposed to be a reply to you Fin. Good to hear you’re out of hiding though, heard it got a little rocky for you a couple few weeks back XD

        • You have no idea who I am, and if you think about it, you only do yourself a disservice by falsely attributing my comments to, and allowing them color your opinion of, an uninvolved person.

          By the way, if I ever heard of Deputy Joe Chavez I certainly don’t remember it.

  4. Joe doesn’t qualify to be a sergeant with the Sheriff’s Office, what makes him think he could lead it. The community complains about the supposed militarization of law enforcement and ex-Major Joe wants to come in using his military background and his minimal civil law enforcement experience to turn the department around. I think he would garner more support from his colleagues if he was around more and was able to promote up the ladder other than trying to take the express elevator to the top using this nothing of a story!

  5. Has anyone addressed the fact this guy had been with the office for how many years and apparently still can’t qualify for patrol duty? How can you run the office if you can’t even qualify for the majority of positions within the office? We have that already with Laurie Smith, and it’s a failing strategy. My understanding is this guy failed field training and was moved to courts because, yes, that is how long the sheriff had been desperate for bodies in courts. The only reason it appears that he was kept was because our sheriff screwed up trying to force him to quit because he was called to service. Not the first time she’s committed this offense, our sheriff is notorious for going after people called up. Otherwise, if the failure of field training is true, Joe would have been released when he failed FT like all the others that fail it before him and since.

    If anything this guy is yet another testament to the quality of Laurie Smith’s decision making in this office.

    It’s notable that the membership response to this guy at the meeting isn’t mentioned. It was not positive. I was told there was a member motion and immediate second to end the conversation with this guy because his answers lacked any significant value to the issues faced by the office. He’s a candidate, so he’ll undoubtedly be on the ballot for endorsement, but I’m not hearing a lot of support.

    Oh yes, the ballot. I’m not about to forget Joe’s rants on his facebook page about how the DSA didn’t hold a vote for endorsement. Honestly Joe, if you can’t take the time to find out both how the endorsement process works and why it works that way, (hint: it was established during your tenure within the office), then you should not be going to all your military friends to whine about it. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you don’t know, that you weren’t just lying. Mostly because in the many years you’ve been with the office, you’ve made no attempt to engage in improving the office, to work with the DSA body, to attend DSA meetings and have your voice heard, etc.

    I won’t speak for anyone else on this specific point, but you will not have my vote at any stage in this election process, from endorsement to election day.

  6. The DSA was quite generous to allow a candidate to speak to the membership who is not qualified to run for office. Joe only has $721.ish dollars in his campaign account as of the late filing of his financial report for the period ending 6/30/2017. He, himself, and one other person were the only donors. The campaign filing was done only after the election office sent him a threatening letter. And-wait for it-Joe can’t even spell his own name correctly.
    https://race-fan.tumblr.com/post/166047842265/whatsmyname (screenshot)

    IMHO, DSA was very gracious and their graciousness was not appreciated. This is bad politics and it’s a poor treatment of the brothers and sisters who wear the uniform.

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