From cop to politician

San Bernardino County Sheriff Rod Hoops has spent a career in law enforcement, but now he’s running for elective office and it’s a new ball game for him.

“I don’t really like that part of the job,” he told the San Bernardino County Democratic Club on Friday, Nov. 13. Even though his personality had to be a factor in his elevation from deputy to sheriff, he said he does not relish the thought of real campaigning, and said his appearance at the club was not a part of his campaign for reelection.

He started with a brief autobiography: Born to an unwed teenager, raised partly by his grandparents and partly by his mother and an alcoholic stepfather, he followed the love of his life from Nebraska to San Diego, where he decided to stay until he landed as job as deputy sheriff in San Bernardino in 1978.

“I didn’t even know where San Bernardino was,” he smiled.

After that, his rise through the ranks was relatively fast.

He became a detective in 1984, sergeant in 1986, lieutenant in 1989, captain in 1995, moved into administration in 2001, deputy chief in 2003, and assistant sheriff in 2005.

When Sheriff Penrod retired in 2009, he appointed Hoops to replace him for his unfinished term, which expires in 2010.

“This is the first time I have ever run for office,” Hoops said, “but I feel I have something to offer.”

He said of the 24 cities in the county, 14 of them, including Highland, have elected to have the Sheriff’s Department provide police services.

The office has a $426 million budget, and last year returned $5 million to the county General Fund, he said.

And when budget cuts are necessary, he promised they will not come at the expense of patrol units. The reductions will start at the top.

The Democrats peppered Republican Hoops with questions, and may have been surprised by some of his answers.

For example, Hoops said he had no problem with medical marijuana clinics, provided the law can be revised to be sure that only patients who need the drug can get it. He said the current law is too lax, and allows almost anyone to buy marijuana.

On the subject of illegal immigrants, Hoops said he sympathized for people who want to come to this country to seek a better life for themselves, and his department will not do “Home Depot raids.”

“We don’t go looking for them,” he said, “but if they commit a crime, then we get Immigration and Customs Enforcement involved. We have a special unit at West Valley Detention Center just to handle illegal immigrants.”

On another subject, he was asked about the “brotherhood” that protected law enforcement when officers were involved in illegal or questionable activity.

Hoops said officers have certain legal protections, but when they step outside the laws of the state or the rules of the office, they are disciplined.’

“I’ve had to fire 18 deputies,” he said. And it does not matter if they are family or friends, he pointed out. The department has a certain expectation, and any officer who violates that has to pay the price.

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