A Closer Look at Jerry Airola -- Part 2 - 8 News NOW

George Knapp, Investigative Reporter

A Closer Look at Jerry Airola -- Part 2

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Jerry Airola said, "I'd rather face the ACLU in court than I would the gang members on the street." Jerry Airola said, "I'd rather face the ACLU in court than I would the gang members on the street."
In a letter to the I-Team, the department said Airola's role ended September of 2005, which contradicts the claims he makes in his ads and on his website. In a letter to the I-Team, the department said Airola's role ended September of 2005, which contradicts the claims he makes in his ads and on his website.
During his months in Merced, Airola averaged ten to fifteen hours per month, mostly flying helicopters for the department on weekends. During his months in Merced, Airola averaged ten to fifteen hours per month, mostly flying helicopters for the department on weekends.
Jerry Airola spent ten months working as a reserve deputy sheriff in Merced County, California. Jerry Airola spent ten months working as a reserve deputy sheriff in Merced County, California.

Is it important for the sheriff to have extensive background in law enforcement, or should the sheriff run Metro like a business?

Candidate Jerry Airola has been touting his credentials as a cop in a million-dollar ad campaign. But as the I-Team reported, Airola served only two years as a small town police officer back in the early '90s. Contrary to his ads, he isn't a deputy either. Does it matter?

Jerry Airola spent ten months working as a reserve deputy sheriff in Merced County, California before an external audit discovered he could not legally serve as a deputy, even part time, because he wasn't a California resident.

In a letter to the I-Team, the department said Airola's role ended September of 2005, which contradicts the claims he makes in his ads and on his website.

Click here to see the letter the I-Team received from Merced County.

During his months in Merced, Airola averaged ten to fifteen hours per month, mostly flying helicopters for the department on weekends. Helicopters, after all, are his business and he donated one to the sheriff's office there. Does this level of experience qualify Airola to run a big city department like Metro?

Consider Airola's proposal for dealing with street gangs. On his website, he says he will position patrol units at the county line to identify and monitor anyone suspected of gang involvement.

George Knapp: "And do what, stop them at the border?"

Jerry Airola: "We follow them. If they commit a crime or a traffic violation, then we will stop them. If we stop them and they've got guns, we'll take their guns and their cars and their freedom for as long as we can. If they want to come back next weekend, bring another car and we'll take that too."

Airola says other communities have tried this against gangs and that it works. The problem is how do you identify who's a gang member and who isn't?

In other states, gang profiling has usually resulted in racial profiling, a practice that has been outlawed by court decree and by Nevada statute, not to mention the practical difficulty, which Airola doesn't think would be difficult at all.

Airola said, "Gang profiling. Anyone with any law enforcement experience, and even people without it, but especially people with law enforcement experience, you can tell when someone is not from your community. For instance, if somebody drives down your street, you'll know if they don't belong there. Let's expand that to our county. We know we've got a group of kids -- 16 to 20 year old guys -- that are all dressed alike and driving a certain type of vehicle. That's gang profiling. We know when we see these guys driving down the road, just like you would, we can profile these people."

But other law enforcement professionals say profiling has been a disaster for agencies that have tried it. Sheriff Bill Young, who admittedly is not an Airola supporter, told the I-Team that no legitimate law enforcement agency in the county would use such a tactic because it would end up making targets of people of color, not to mention what the surveillance of all cars coming to town would do to tourism.

A former FBI official, who asked not to be named, said it would be a waste of manpower since surveillance is the most labor intensive part of police work, and this would be surveillance on a massive scale. Defense attorney Tom Pitaro called it illegal, unconstitutional, and incredibly offensive.

Airola is not deterred.

George Knapp: "The ACLU is gonna love you."

Jerry Airola: "I'd rather face the ACLU in court than I would the gang members on the street."

Airola says the confusion about his status as a reserve officer resulted when the sheriff of Merced County told him that he could consider himself on a leave of absence rather than kicked off the force for being a non-resident.

However, the only statement to come out of the sheriff's office is the letter that explains the relationship with Airola ended last fall.

Click here to see the letter the I-Team received from Merced County.

Send feedback to I-Team Reporter George Knapp at gknapp@klastv.com

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