Newly elected Santa Clara County Sheriff Bob Jonsen just passed his 90-day mark on the job, having begun work on December 12, 2022. Coming in April will be an official publication covering Jonsen’s first 100 days. In the meantime, The Beat caught up with the new Sheriff by phone for an exclusive interview:
“Overall,” said Jonsen, “the reception’s been great, the energy’s been fantastic, and I really like the direction we’re headed.”
For four and a half years prior to starting his work as County Sheriff, Jonsen served as Police Chief in Palo Alto. Before that, he was the Chief in Menlo Park for five years. That role followed a 27-year run at the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
“It was a lot of thoughtfulness,” Jonsen shared, recounting his process of deciding to run for County Sheriff. “I was actually pretty content in Palo Alto.”
But with previous Sheriff Laurie Smith on her way out amid civil corruption and misconduct charges, Jonsen saw no one with the right level of executive experience throwing their hat in the ring. He said to himself, It makes sense. My education, my background experience all add up. So let’s do it.
Describing his new job, Jonsen shared, “It’s really operationally no different than running a municipality. It’s on a much bigger scale…You have the jails. You have the courts. You have transportation. You have parks. There’s a lot more to it.”
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office has over 1,800 personnel in total. Jonsen highlights his relationships with County partners as paramount to keeping the whole machine in motion.
Turning his attention to Milpitas, Jonsen spoke first of the Elmwood Correctional Facility located here; he would like to enhance the jail’s educational opportunities, an area where the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) plays a role. Meanwhile, in general, he seeks to support the Milpitas Police Department (MPD) and “Reduce crimes that are specific to the region. Property-related would be one of those.”
In an interview with Vice Mayor Evelyn Chua, The Beat discussed Jonsen’s intention to form partnerships and open dialogue with all the cities in the county (there are 15 in total), building on how he operated in Palo Alto. When she learned about Jonsen’s practice of holding community forums there, she asked him, “Aren’t you bombarded with questions?”
“No,” he said, “it turned out to be effective.”
Said Chua, “He wants to do the same thing for the Santa Clara County cities. Milpitas will have a voice on our specific issues.”
Chua then addressed commonplace local concerns around how long it takes to book arrestees at the Santa Clara County Main Jail.
“I found out from Chief Jared [Hernandez],” Chua said, “that it takes two to three hours for our officers to book a suspect.”
During that time, the officers and suspects are usually out waiting in the parking lot.
Jonsen said to Chua, “I can do something about that…”
“That’s actually a concern for all our municipalities,” Jonsen shared with The Beat. “A lot of that was brought on due to the pandemic, as well” due to more booking protocols being added (ones which were recently removed). “In a perfect world,” he said, “we’re going to be able to bring that down to a manageable time.”
“That one is really good for Milpitas,” Chua said. “That saves us a lot of hours.”
As another part of the suspect booking process, Chua shared that “There’s also an element of them determining, Is this a drug issue, a mental health issue…” Officers have to call a variety of agencies to find out.
Sheriff Jonsen has therefore been looking into using high-tech computer applications so that officers can jumpstart the process before arriving at the jail.
Said Jonsen, “I think there is potential for some type of app-based program that can help us be more efficient in our booking protocols.” Using such an app, officers who’ve made an arrest will be able to see in advance how long the booking process is expected to take, depending on the Main Jail’s capacity at that time.
He noted how one benefit of more efficient bookings means more time for officers to spend out on patrol…
“Because the more those officers are in your city, visible in your city, that’s gonna help reduce crime.”