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Placer County Law Enforcement and Sheriff Ed Bonner

In March, I had the pleasure of presenting a commendation to Placer County Sheriff Edward N. Bonner for his 40 years of service to the county. Sheriff Bonner, a Placer County native son, has been sheriff since 1994, having risen through the ranks from his first days as a young deputy in 1974. 

Sheriff Bonner is serving his fifth term as the elected head of law enforcement for most of the unincorporated area of the county. He is popular and respected not only among the citizens of this county, but by rank and file law enforcement throughout the region and the state.  

We are fortunate to have him as a dedicated civil servant. He has been at the helm of Sheriff Office’s through significant changes to the population, both in numbers and demographics in Placer County. Through his leadership and his innate ability to forge alliances with other law enforcement agencies, Placer County remains a safe and desirable place to live. 

Interestingly enough, on the day we honored Sheriff Bonner, the Board of Supervisors also approved funding for a new radio system for use by emergency responders. At issue is the fact that many law enforcement and firefighting agencies can’t communicate with one another because their radios can’t be set to compatible frequencies. 

The Placer County Sheriff’s Office has been instrumental in getting this issue resolved. There were a couple of local incidents that highlight this incompatibility issue. A few years ago a police officer in Placer County was fatally injured and the suspect escaped. Responding law enforcement personnel from multiple agencies were talking to one another with cell phones because their radios couldn’t communicate. We’ve seen similar issues when fire and law enforcement respond to an incident. 

Another, more recent incident happened late last year when a wanted felon, a gang member, shot a federal law enforcement agent in West Roseville. He escaped into an adjacent neighborhood and when cornered by responding officers shot and wounded several more police officers. The massive law enforcement response included local, regional, state and federal law enforcement personnel who worked together to ensure the suspect was captured. 

However, there were issues with different radio systems used by the myriad agencies and again, cell phones were deployed so various agencies could communicate.  

A fire in the hills above Oakland and Berkley in 1991 showed emergency service personnel just how harmful incompatibility between agencies can be. The fire was a perfect storm of circumstances: occurring after a hot summer, an accumulation of years of brush and leaves, exceptionally high winds, and downed power lines interrupting hydrant water flow. The absence of equipment compatibility became quite apparent during the battle against this firestorm when out-of-area agencies tried to hook up to local hydrants and found the hose connections didn’t fit. The Oakland Hills fire took 25 lives, destroyed more than 3,000 homes and caused $1.5 billion in damages. While some of that destruction would have been inevitable, some of it could have been mitigated had agencies been able to coordinate their response. 

During the past decade, Placer County, under the direction of Sheriff Bonner, has made significant progress towards installing a new countywide radio network that can be used by all public safety agencies. It is incumbent upon us, as the policy makers to ensure that our emergency first responders have the necessary tools to meet their day-to-day communications needs and effectively respond to any disaster or incident. 

Placer County is a large and geographically diverse county that encompasses more than 1,500 square miles. We have the urban western edge, with its city-like feel and problems. Much of the county’s population is centered in the suburban areas of Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln. Heading east, we have forestlands and the mountain communities of the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe. Each area has different law enforcement needs. Given the varied terrain, a common communications system is not a extraneous luxury, but an essential tool. 

I’d like to draw an analogy between Sheriff Bonner and the radio system we are establishing in the county. With his decades of experience, intimate understanding of the cultures present in this county and his cooperative perspective, the Sheriff is able to mesh the duties and responsibilities of his deputies and correctional officers with the differing needs throughout the county. A radio system that will operate across the many different law enforcement cultures present in the varied terrain of Placer County will allow appropriate responses to the needs of each community.  

As your elected member of the Board of Supervisors, I want to assure you that public safety is at the top of my priority list. We are fortunate to have both Ed Bonner as our Sheriff and the well-respected and well-run organization that he has built in his four decades of service to the people of Placer County. I will do all that I can to ensure the Placer County Sheriff’s Office has the tools it needs to keep our loved ones, homes, and businesses safe. 

As always, it is an honor and a privilege to serve you. I always welcome your feedback and can be reached by e-mail at jduran@placer.ca.gov or by phone at 916-787-8950.

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