Letter from Sheriff Obenberger

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To:       All News Outlets

From:  Jennifer Hansen, Public Information Officer

Date:   December 10, 2013

RE:       Letter from Sheriff Obenberger relating to recent media coverage relating to the Sheriff’s Dept.

Good morning, everyone. There has been some recent press relating to the Sheriff's Department that Sheriff Obenberger wants to personally address. In a Board of Supervisors meeting, held this morning, the Sheriff presented the following letter to the members of the Board of Supervisors and the citizens of Mono County.

To the Honorable Mono County Board of Supervisors and Citizens of Mono County,

At the December 3rd, 2013, Board of Supervisors meeting, two of you questioned law enforcement actions taken by my Office, at points referring to individuals associated with ‘Burning Man’. Supervisor Fesko, you said you wanted to have a discussion about policy referring to law enforcement techniques, specifically traffic stops. Supervisor Johnston, you wanted to possibly change policy relating to the use of sobriety checkpoints, and said you were aware of trade-offs if such changes would occur.

The Office of the Sheriff is an independent, constitutional office, and as such, we work for the constituents of Mono County. The Board of Supervisors does not determine the type of law enforcement services provided to the citizens and/or visitors of Mono County, that is the purview of the Sheriff. The Board of Supervisors has two responsibilities in dealing with my Office. One is to provide a yearly budget and the second is to authorize the number of employees. These responsibilities are delineated in California Government Codes and within those codes it specifically states that the Board shall not affect or obstruct the independent functions of the Sheriff.

As Sheriff, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, the Constitution of the State of California, and am also guided by the California Government Code. I have to maintain a jail, provide civil services, coroner services, search and rescue, court security and manage emergency services for the county. Coupled with that, I have various specialized details such as Boating, Off Highway Vehicle patrol (OHV), Mono County Narcotics Enforcement Team (MONET), and a K-9 unit that augment routine patrol services. All of these are done with the budget you, the Board of Supervisors, approves on a yearly basis and/or with state and federal grant funding.

The Sheriff’s Office has received both written and verbal ‘thank you’ letters, phone calls, and other correspondence for the services we provide, even relating to the numerous arrests that were made on or around the ‘Burning Man’ festivities timeframe. Some of the correspondence stated ‘Keep doing what you are doing,” and “I wonder how many date rapes didn't occur because you took the drugs off the street.” These positive comments have come from residents, visitors and various agencies that we deal with on a daily basis.

I expect and demand from my staff professional, courteous and fair law enforcement and I am confident they are providing it. I have given them discretion to handle their encounters with the public to both serve the individual and the public at large using their judgment, the law and their years of training and experience to ensure fair administration of justice. Any type of encounter with law enforcement can be uncomfortable and stressful for both the citizen, and sometimes the deputy, but the Sheriff’s Office has a job to do. We get that job done, even though we cannot make everyone happy, all of the time.

As the Sheriff, I value and appreciate any feedback, positive or otherwise, from the public that could enhance the operations of the Sheriff’s Office as it is my intention to make the Mono County Sheriff’s Office the best it can be.

I will continue to use any lawful means available and productive in protecting the people of Mono County from crime.

It is an honor to serve the residents and visitors to Mono County.

R. Obenberger
Sheriff, Mono County

Reported by: Jennifer M. Hansen, Public Information Officer