Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes “Wakes Up” Newport Beach

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OC Sheriff Don Barnes at the Wake Up! Newport event on Aug. 5 / Photo by Lawrence Sherwin

The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s “Wake Up! Newport” breakfast meeting finally woke up on Thursday, Aug. 5 at the Newport Beach Public Library with its first live event in more than a year and a half.

Special guest Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Don Barnes provided a public safety update to a prestigious group of local dignitaries, including Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, Newport Beach City Council Member Joy Brenner and Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis, as well as a number of business and community leaders and interested citizens.

Barnes holds the job of 13th Sheriff-Coroner for Orange County. Elected in 2018 after more than three decades of service, Barnes leads with innovative initiatives aimed at enhancing public safety. These include measures to:

  • Keep classrooms and campuses safe with restorative programs to deal with juvenile crime and keep our young people from graduating into adult offenders.
  • Reduce the prevalence of drugs in our communities by identifying and targeting escalating fentanyl and other drug use and identifying drug sources starting at our borders before they make it into distribution.
  • Operate a “best practices” jail including providing a “hand up” with mental health services and placement for homeless offenders upon release.
  • Work with the Sheriff’s Interfaith Council (started in 2015 by Barnes’ predecessor, former Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens) to collaborate with places of worship on managing mental health issues in their communities to circumvent the occurrence of homegrown extremism.
  • Maintain an organizational culture of integrity, professionalism and accountability to promote good relations between the Sheriff’s Department and the communities it serves. Barnes especially noted the attention the department has paid to the proper implementation of a program to distribute 1,000 body-cam devices to officers in the coming year.

When asked what changes he would make in the county to provide an even higher level of service, Barnes advised Orange County should be receiving a larger part of the law enforcement budget from Sacramento. He indicated the percentage of funding sent to Orange County was statistically out of balance compared to the size of scope of other counties’ percentages.

Barnes also suggested the most important citizen participation comes from knowing what you are voting for, being informed and making good decisions.

Finally, Barnes urged attendees to voice their of appreciation of first responders in our communities, including police, fire, and EMS.

“We hire from the human race” said Barnes, adding “law enforcement is not a perfect system, but it is not broken.”

Small expressions such as a thank you in everyday encounters with law enforcement and yard signs voicing support are meaningful and do not go unnoticed.

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