California state Assembly member and former mayor of Elk Grove Jim Cooper will be Sacramento County’s next sheriff.
Cooper comes to the position after eight years in the state Legislature and with three decades of experience working in the Sheriff’s office. He will be the first African American to hold this seat.
Cooper’s victory was announced on Saturday after his opponent, current Undersheriff Jim Barnes, conceded the race. As of Monday, Cooper led the race with 54.48% of the vote, with Barnes trailing at 45.52%.
“I’m very excited and very humbled. I really appreciate the voters having the faith in me to make me the next sheriff in Sacramento county,” Cooper said. “There’s so much going on in society, and one of the top issues is homelessness and crime.”
Cooper has said he plans to focus on homelessness once he takes office, mentioning the uptick in violent crime in the unhoused community in the past few years. He has had his eyes on the Sheriff’s seat since 2010, when he unsuccessfully ran against former Sheriff Scott Jones.
“It’s really being engaged and working with partners and health and human services, you’ve also got to address the mental health part and also the substance abuse part,” Cooper said.
He also said he hoped being the first African American sheriff can bring a new perspective to the position.
“Well, the department’s over 170 years old, so I think it brings a new set of eyes. Growing up here in Sacramento my entire life, I have a different view on some things, to bring that knowledge and experience to that office sets me apart from folks who have held this office in the past,” he said.
But he’s also aware that being the first to hold this position will come with greater expectations. Former Sacramento police chief Daniel Hahn said serving as the first African American will come with its own challenges. Hahn served as the first African American police chief for the city of Sacramento and the city of Roseville.
“He has some experiences that no other sheriff has had before, because there’s never been an African American sheriff. At the same time, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t come with different expectations or challenges,” Hahn said. “I’ve received, whether they’re threats or comments, that are solely due to my race and he will receive the same thing. You have to be strong enough to go, 'I’m going to do what I think is right, no matter what.'”
Hahn said he believes it’s a historic first step that voters chose to elect an African American to serve in this seat for the first time in history, but he noted that Cooper will also have to navigate the challenges that come with being the first in a position.
“The Black community is going to have some expectations that they don’t have for a white sheriff, the non-Black community is going to have expectations on him. The biases that we’ve had in our country don’t go away just because he makes sheriff,” Hahn said.
Cooper said he’s ready to take on the task.
“At the end of the day, I want to be a sheriff for everyone, we’ve got issues, I spent 30 years in law enforcement, you’ve gotta do things very gently, but sometimes you have to enforce laws, it’s important,” he said. “I will be held to a higher standard, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and to be inclusive with that.”
Cooper will be sworn in as sheriff in January of 2023.
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