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Sheriff takes county concerns on road trip

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer
9/28/2011

“I think it’s essential that Plumas County’s situation is made known to people at the state and federal level.”

That statement from Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood pretty much sums up the way he sees his role these days.

Whether it’s sharing ideas with other sheriffs, testifying at congressional hearings or meeting with the governor, Hagwood is spending a lot of time fighting for the county’s causes … outside of the county.

“There was a time when (a sheriff could) stay relatively isolated and be OK,” Hagwood said. “But that time has passed.”

The week of Sept. 18 – 25 provided a good snapshot in the life of the county’s traveling sheriff.

Hagwood made three trips to Sacramento and another to Lincoln.

At the invitation of Congressman Tom McClintock, he testified at a congressional hearing about the problems associated with the U.S. Forest Service Travel Management Plan.

Hagwood was back in Sacramento two days later for a conference on the state prison inmate realignment.

After a trip to Lincoln for a Crime Victims United event, he was back in Sacramento — where he is today — for a four-day jail management conference.

Sandwiched between the trips were local neighborhood watch, Board of Supervisors and Community Corrections Partnership meetings.

If the constant travel is wearing down the sheriff, it doesn’t show. He said that is a testament to the staff at the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office was recently restructured to eliminate the undersheriff position in favor of two assistant sheriffs, Gerry Hendrick and Dean Canalia.

Hendrick handles the operations duties, while Canalia takes care of the administration side.

Hagwood said having Canalia and Hendrick in charge gives him the freedom to focus on the county’s interests in Sacramento and beyond.

“It was essential that I had two people there with equal authority overseeing the two very different sides of the house from administration and operations,” Hagwood said.  “And it has worked beautifully.

“It’s not just the assistant sheriffs — everybody has just responded very, very well. They are wearing two and three different hats.”

Here are the highlights of Hagwood’s week on the road:

 

Congressional hearing

On Sept. 19, the sheriff blasted the Travel Management Plan during his testimony.

New Forest Service rules limit access to many roads on its land, and result in citations and fines for offenders.

Hagwood’s comments were highlighted in a Sacramento Bee story the following day.

According to the Bee story, a crowd of more than 200 attending the hearing cheered when Hagwood said he would not enforce Forest Service road closures in Plumas County.

“It’s one of the most flagrant examples of federal overreach in recent memory,” Hagwood said of the Travel Management Plan. “The sheriff’s office will not create a new class of criminals out of our families and visitors who want nothing more than to enjoy the national forests.”

After returning to Quincy, Hagwood elaborated on his comments.

“I fundamentally disagree with the rule. But what is also incredibly problematic is the process that is prescribed by he Forest Service to implement these changes,” the sheriff said. “It’s largely unenforceable to any credible degree.”

Hagwood added the Forest Service is putting its small enforcement staff in a position for potential confrontation in the field.

Despite his objection to the new rules, Hagwood said his deputies wouldn’t hesitate to assist the Forest Service officers.

“We will always do everything we can to make sure that people are safe,” Hagwood said. “And we will never, ever turn our back on another officer. I don’t care what agency they are from.”

 

State inmate transfer

Hagwood has been outspoken about the injustice of small counties being forced to house state prisoners.

He has presented his concerns to the governor and explained the potential impact during townhall and neighborhood watch meetings throughout the county.

At a Sept. 21 meeting at the Sacramento Convention Center, the sheriff listened to Gov. Jerry Brown talk about proposing state taxes to pay for the inmate transfer.

Hagwood said state lawmakers aren’t likely to come up with money to help the counties. He said they are passing the financial burden to the counties along with the inmates.

“I do believe that the governor is very sincere in his intentions,” Hagwood said. “But the process by which he achieves that may prove incredibly challenging.

“We’ve got one of the most dysfunctional situations at the Capitol with partisan fighting,” he said. “There’s a huge pool of very inexperienced legislators. And the mechanisms that were engaged historically to reach compromise are gone.”

 

Neighborhood watch

Despite all of the posturing at the state level, the reality is   that Oct. 1 Plumas County will be immediately responsible for 69 new parolees and an influx of felons coming to the county jail.

Contrary to what the state wants people to believe, Hagwood said, many of the inmates would be in the county jail longer than three years. “There is the potential for them to be spending five, eight, 10, even 12 years in county jails.”

With those numbers in mind, Hagwood has been reaching out to any neighborhood group that is willing to help.

He has spoken at a number of neighborhood watch meetings throughout the county. He said there are new meetings planned in Blairsden and Portola.

His most recent meeting was Sunday, Sept. 25, in Quincy.

“People have really responded to this whole concept of partnering with the sheriff’s department and their neighborhoods,” Hagwood said. “I think it is very healthy. I’m getting calls literally every day from people who want to put these (watch meetings) together.”

 

Jail management conference

After the Quincy neighborhood watch meeting was finished, Hagwood, Canalia and Plumas County Jail Commander Debra Gonsalves headed back to Sacramento.

They are taking part in a four-day jail management conference.

“The conference is going to be really beneficial, given that the implementation of AB 109 (prison inmate realignment) will be the following week,” Hagwood said. “We will be dealing with the very specific boots-on-the-ground issues of how the dynamics of county jails will be changing.

“There will be a lot of speakers from across the country to share their experiences and strategies.”

 


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