EDITOR: I read the Mountain Democrat story about the campaign appearance by John DÕAgostini at a meeting of the Modified Motorcycle Association which coincidentally, was being attended by El Dorado County sheriffÕs deputies.
As I thought would happen, there were a few people who were upset by what they considered to be an inappropriate monitoring of a candidateÕs appearances. There was also the outrage expressed by one of the principals of that organization that the meeting had been monitored. Facebook is loaded with comments by those who think that the SheriffÕs Department is in drastic need of a Òchange in culture.Ó
I listened to the audio on the Mountain Democrat Website and heard DÕAgostini discuss the need for change, and his prediction that he would be challenged by the current department establishment within days of taking office if he is elected. He seems clearly to be making the statement that the department monitoring of gang activity in this county has been a bad thing. Yes, I said gang activity.
The fact that a candidate for sheriff was meeting with the Modified Motorcycle Association was an immediate attention getter. When I was working as a federal agent in Los Angeles I was involved in some money laundering investigations and intelligence gathering. It was well known to many local, state, and federal law enforcement officers nationwide that the HellÕs Angels motorcycle club had decided to try to divert some law enforcement scrutiny and soften its image with the general public by using classic public relations techniques; wearing suits and neckties and engaging in high-profile public service events being among those.
This was a great tactic because it took advantage of the fact that many law abiding citizens, including doctors, lawyers, dentists, plumbers, salesmen, and a number of my fellow agents, enjoyed putting on leathers and riding their Harleys on their days off. They began to blend into the crowd as far as much of the general public was concerned.
Evidence that this tactic has been somewhat successful can be seen in the fact that some in the general public have questioned why deputies were attending a of the meeting of the MMA. Author Yves Lavigne wrote a book in 1987: ÒHellÕs Angels: Three can keep a secret if two are dead,Ó that told the public some of what law enforcement agencies had believed for some time, that the Modified Motorcycle Association was nothing more than an attempt by the HellÕs Angels to put a respectable face on their organization.
A number of unknowing people have no doubt become members of the MMA without knowing its origins, but it is still a group that gets attention from law enforcement agencies nationwide. Maybe the makeup and associations of the MMA have changed since I retired, but knowing what I knew then, I have some great concerns about making promises to that group. Which brings up the issue of Òchanging a culture.Ó
One of the great things about living in El Dorado County is that this county does not have a gang problem. That does not mean that we donÕt have gangs. Almost every county in the state has people associated with ethnic gangs and biker gangs. The SheriffÕs Department in El Dorado County has made an effort to make sure those gangs do not establish the kind of a foothold they have in some other counties.
Make your own comparison. Take a look at the shopping neighborhoods in Placerville or Cameron Park or El Dorado Hills, then take a look at the same type of neighborhoods in many parts of San Francisco or Los Angeles. Notice that we donÕt have nearly as much graffiti?
How many stories have you seen about groups of bikers engaged in open bloody warfare in this county, compared to Bay Area or Los Angeles locations? Municipal law enforcement agencies are most effective at keeping crimes from occurring, and investigating crimes that have occurred. Capt. Craig Therkildsen has been part of the SheriffÕs Department command structure that understands that the legal investigation of individuals and criminal groups is a time-honored technique that gets results.
Unless you want to see more graffiti gang related stabbings to increase I donÕt think you want that department culture to change.