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Dwight Cline takes time to discuss his bid for Plumas County Sheriff

Dwight Cline

The June 7 Primary is less than two months away and time is dwindling to get to know more about the two men running for Plumas County Sheriff — Challenger Dwight Cline and Sheriff Todd Johns. Plumas News sat down with both men this week to discuss why they are seeking the job, the law enforcement issues facing the county, what the public can do to help, and more. Following is a summation of the discussion with Dwight Cline. The interview with Todd Johns is published separately.

Dwight Cline, 59, has been in law enforcement for 33 years (the beginning of his career spent in Southern California). He spent 26 years with the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office and retired a little over four years ago.

While he has enjoyed his retirement, Cline said that he misses being with the department. “The job never went out of my head,” he said during an April 15 interview, and described an incident when he learned that a deputy got hurt on the job and wished he could have been there to help him.

But a run for sheriff? Cline said this isn’t the first time that he considered running for the position — he also thought about it in 2010, when Greg Hagwood ran for the position. “We talked it over and agreed that he might be more electable,” Cline said.

There was another opportunity to seek the position when Hagwood retired early and the Board of Supervisors appointed his replacement. Why not then? Cline said that he thought Carson Wingfield was going to be selected and that he supported him, thinking that he might actually return to the department to work for him. But the board appointed Todd Johns.

Which brings us to now and why 2022 is the year. Cline said it’s because department personnel have reached out to him and asked him to run. “The biggest issue is the department itself,” he said. “We’ve lost five individuals under the current administration. There are seven to eight waiting to see what happens with this election.”

Why? What is going on within the department? Cline said that you “have to invest in your employees; have to create a work environment that’s stable and well-led and that they’re recognized for what they do. The department remembers me as being this type of leader.”

Cline said that it’s not just a couple of disgruntled employees. He cited a “lack of communication and a lack of feeling supported,” on the part of the employees. He said that he has earned the trust of the employees over the years and his style is what they respect.

“I’ve had two parents of deputies thanking me because they are concerned about their kids’ safety,” he said. “They trust me and they want their child to be taken care of correctly. That trust factor is something I could never turn my back on.”

As for his opponent, Cline said that Johns has “done some great things as sheriff, but the department is fragmented.”

Cline has been campaigning throughout the county, but is focusing a little more on Quincy since he is less well known there. The public knows him more in Lake Almanor where he worked for a while and in Eastern Plumas where he has a home and a business. Cline said that he is doing a lot of meet-and-greets in private homes, and is proud that he has close to 1,000 signs posted.

What do the constituents want to talk about? Are there different concerns in different areas of the county?

“Mostly staffing,” Cline said, “especially in Chester where they have one deputy.” (While there is just one resident deputy, other deputies are assigned to patrol the area.)

He said the lack of deputies is due in part to morale and in part to wages. He said that the latter is not unique to the sheriff’s department; it’s a community problem. “The old adage was we don’t pay enough, but you can afford to live here in this beautiful place,” he said. He said that the county needs to offer a higher wage and hiring bonuses. “And that solution has to come from the board of supervisors,” he said. He said he can aid in that endeavor by providing facts. Noting that one of the supervisors is former Sheriff Greg Hagwood, Plumas News asked if Cline had talked to him about the issue.  “I talked with Greg a little bit about the wage issue,” he said. “Employees are just trying to keep their heads above water with 7 percent inflation. Deputies aren’t trying to get rich. They are just trying to maintain.”

Housing is also an issue and Cline said that he has talked to Realtors up at Almanor for creative solutions. “Communities, if they are going to thrive, need law enforcement, education, health care,” Cline said.

When asked about what appears to be a rising crime level in Plumas County, Cline put part of the blame on the state. He discussed the new bail schedule which effectively results in a citation that allows prisoners to walk out the door, and state early release policies.

What would be your wish list for the county if money and staffing weren’t an issue? “I would like to see the way it was back with Hagwood, when there were four or five deputies in each patrol area. One of Cline’s jobs at the Sheriff’s Office was to write the patrol schedule. He implemented one schedule for the entire county – rather than the way it used to be when each substation had its own schedule. Cline said he would also like to provide 24-hour coverage, and put a resource officer at every school. While he knows that isn’t possible, he would like to have a greater presence in the schools. While high school would be a priority, elementary schools would also be included. “They need to trust law enforcement,” Cline said.

Cline also wants to bring back civilian volunteers —such as individuals to help the public at the substations.  “Communities want to be part of what’s going on,” he said.

As for the communities, he discussed their needs. “You look at Chester/Lake Almanor and their need is deputies,” he said. “It’s a very tight community – they want direct contact,” though he added he thinks that’s common to all of the communities.

Cline also addressed the eastern end of the county. “The Portola substation is responsible to cover from Lee Summit to the county line in Chilcoot, but Portola takes most of the deputies’ time.” He would like deputies to be able to routinely patrol other areas on a regular basis.  When asked about the assistance that is received from the California Highway Patrol, Cline said it’s significant. “The general consensus seems to be that they don’t mind it because they appreciate the community. But he said it’s really not fair to the CHP, and the county needs more deputies.

Given the current circumstances — lingering impacts of COVID, the Dixie Fire aftermath, the new jail construction — is this the right time to make a transition in the Sheriff’s Office. Also, you have been gone for a while, will that impact your ability to do the job?

Cline addressed the Dixie Fire and said that there are FEMA protocols in place that direct emergency response. He explained that all of the sheriff’s office personnel is trained, and it shouldn’t matter who is in a role — there are protocols to follow. And while Todd Johns lives in Greenville and is very involved in the recovery effort, Cline said he would be involved as well.

As for being away, he acknowledged that there have been some internal changes over the past four years. “I know I have some catching up to do, but I spent 33 years in law enforcement, I see this as starting from experience,” he said. “I know where to go for my resources. I have a good relationship with the Sierra County Sheriff and the Modoc County Sheriff. I am doing this for the employees and the public. I want to be accessible for all of them.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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