On October 6, a deputy sheriff's car was observed parked in front of a fire hydrant and partially blocking the sidewalk and road. It is well known that in non-emergency situations Law Enforcement must follow all the laws just like everyone else. The vehicle did not have its lights and sirens on and there appeared to be no emergency in the area. Was the deputy just stopping to buy some flowers because they missed a birthday? Or was this a sign of corruption within the Sheriff's Department?
When asked about the incident, Mayor Chiara Villanova, stated, "I don't believe that ascends to the level of corruption. I think it simply shows that one officer needs to be reminded of parking regulations. I can totally see that officer being put on parking check duty for a while. But I have no control over the Sheriff's Department. I will however support the Sheriff how ever she deems appropriate to deal with the incident."
A witness also stated that she had seen the car parked in that exact spot three nights before. Unfortunately while gathering information for this story, that same witness was involved in a car accident involving the patrol vehicle that was parked in that exact same space. In an attempt to get around the car, she ended up smashing into a tree. She spent a night in the hospital with a slight concussion and bruises.
When asked about the incident, Sargent Hazel Hernandez of the Santa Ramona Sheriff's Department confirmed the department was aware of the situation. Further, since the accident involved a deputy's vehicle, the case has been turned over to Internal Affairs. They were not able to provide any further comment pending the investigation.
Given the Department's slightly tarnished reputation in the community there is speculation as to if the deputy will even be disciplined. While investigating this story, Mayor Villanova was asked about the recent change over from the Police Department to a Sheriff's Department. Many in the city expressed concern that the Mayor no longer had any sway over Law Enforcement in the city. Villanova had this to say, "Am I against law enforcement officers? No. They are doing a job that has to be done, one that most folks, myself included, would never consider doing. You have to remember these are the people who run at danger so the rest of us can get away. Will I agree and back every decision made by every member of the department? No. But that comes with my job. My job is to balance the needs of the city, not just the legal and safety needs but the social and economic ones as well. Besides which, I don't want Sheriff Jade as my enemy, her love of shoes is paying for my retirement."
It appears that Villanova has a good working relationship with the Sheriff and respects law enforcement. Will that translate to the Mayor and Sheriff working together to heal the rift in the city? That remains to be seen but a good start might be ensuring this deputy who has a reckless disregard for the law is disciplined for their actions.