Sheriff Candidate Ernesto Olivares Speaks to Club

Ernesto Olivares, currently a Santa Rosa City Council member and a former Santa Rosa Police Department lieutenant, spoke to the Windsor/North County Democratic Club on Thursday, January 25th. Olivares main point of emphasis was that 21st century policing requires excellent community engagement, hence his slogan “Olivares for Our Sheriff.”

Olivares was the second of the three declared candidates for sheriff to speak to the club. Mark Essick spoke on October 26th; John Mutz will speak on February 22nd.

Olivares began his career as a police cadet at Yuba College in the Sacramento Valley. From there, after a few years, he moved to Santa Rosa in 1979 to take a police job. In his career, he moved up in the ranks to eventually become a lieutenant. He served in a number of special assignments including detective, crisis negotiator, and field training officer.

After being promoted to Sergeant, Olivares supervised a number of units, among them Sex Crime and Family Violence, Internal Affairs, and the police Public Information Office. He also served as an Acting Commander in the Special Services Division.

In 2004, Olivares was promoted to Police Lieutenant and served as Watch Commander overseeing the deployment of officers in the Field Services Division. In 2006 he became the head of Santa Rosa’s new gang prevention and intervention services, where he established and built partnerships with a number of community-based organizations.

Olivares retired from the police department in 2008 and was elected to Santa Rosa City Council that same year, the council’s first Latino member. He served as the city’s mayor from 2010 to 2012. In keeping with his work with the police department, he was the chair of the Santa Rosa Violence Prevention Partnership for six years.

As well as being a councilmember, Olivares is currently the Executive Director of the California Cities Violence Prevention Network.

If elected, Olivares would focus on several areas in the sheriff’s department:

First, each of the more than 28 separate communities in Sonoma County should be in continual interaction with the sheriff to determine what is currently working or not working, through focus groups and community meetings.

Second, hiring and promotion practices should be revamped to recruit a more diverse group of sheriff’s deputies. Olivares thinks this can be done by reaching out to other areas of the state, going to schools and conferences, and encouraging local youth to become police officers. After applications have been winnowed, there should be a group of community members as well as the usual committee of sheriff’s department personnel, who should hold parallel interviews to give their input before the final decision is made on hiring or promotion.

A third area of emphasis would be the total commitment of all members of the sheriff’s department to community policing, rather than having a small separate unit specializing in this.

For more information on Olivares, go to

— Rick Massell

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