By Antonio Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer

When Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Sacramento) first heard of the racially charged texts and photos sent to Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department employees in early March, he was “disgusted,” he said at the time.

A former Sacramento County sheriff’s captain and Rancho Cordova chief of police allegedly was responsible for the insensitive material, featuring a photo of a White man using a water hose to spray a Black child with the words “Go be a [n-word] somewhere else.”

If elected county sheriff in the June 7 primary, Cooper vowed that kind of behavior and racial imagery would not occur on his watch.

“Disgusted but not surprised given the department’s lack of leadership,” Cooper posted on Twitter. “It’s time for a change … our community and deputy deserved better. I will do better.” 

After a successful tenure in the state Assembly, the former Elk Grove mayor is giving it another try at becoming Sacramento County’s first Black sheriff. He ran in 2010, losing to outgoing Sheriff Scott Jones, who is running for Congress.

The 30-year law enforcement veteran will run against Sacramento County Undersheriff Jim Barnes, who has been with the department for nearly 25 years. Jones is supporting Barnes.

“I know Jim Barnes and he is fully committed to keeping this community safe. He has an untarnished reputation of experience and leadership to be an excellent Sheriff,” Jones said on Barnes’ campaign website.

The sheriff’s office provides general-service law enforcement to unincorporated areas of the county and often assists police departments in incorporated cities. The county sheriff’s position has no term limits. Jones earned $415,349.60 in pay and benefits in 2019 as sheriff; Barnes’ as undersheriff in 2020 made $331,549.80.

Representing California’s 9th District, Cooper’s annual base salary is $114,877, including an additional $211 per diem. He was named Legislator of the Year by the California District Attorneys Association, the California Police Chiefs Association, and the California Narcotics Officers Association. He also has been honored by Crime Victims United.

 Cooper during his eight years in the Assembly authored more than 30 public safety bills, including legislation aimed at cracking down on sexually violent predators, felony murderers, ghost guns, and school gun violence.

Additionally, Cooper authored legislation to enhance DNA collection, improve emergency medical response services, expand community policing, and increase access to rape kits.

“There is no one better prepared to lead the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department than Jim Cooper,” Sacramento County District Attorney Ann Marie Schubert said. “Public safety is in Jim’s DNA. He’ll hit the ground running to enforce the law and protect the victims.”

Cooper is a 30-year law enforcement veteran and 15-year Elk Grove Councilmember. He joined the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department at age 20, earning the Bronze Star for Bravery for actions during the 1991 hostage crisis at a South Sacramento Good Guys store. He spent four years working as the department’s spokesperson and being promoted to captain.

As a captain, Cooper spent nearly a decade as an undercover narcotics officer and gang detective. He commanded nine divisions, including the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Taskforce, which combats human trafficking and child sexual exploitation.

“More than ever, the people of Sacramento County need a sheriff they can trust,” Cooper said. “We need a sheriff with the leadership, experience, and relationships needed to tackle rising violent crime, rampant retail theft, and homelessness.”