Jerry Airola spent ten months working as a reserve deputy sheriff in Merced County, California.
In July, George Knapp asked, "If I call the department, they will tell me you are a cop there?" Jerry Airola replied, "Absolutely. Matter of fact, you can call the sheriff there."
When Jerry Airola began his campaign for sheriff earlier this year, his TV ads made the claim again. "I'm a cop, a businessman, and a father."
Sheriff candidate Jerry Airola is attempting to sue the current sheriff and the head of the police union for defamation but it appears that Airola has done plenty to muddy the waters himself.
There is only one period in Jerry Airola's life when he served full time as a police officer. He became a patrol officer in 1991 in the small farming town of Los Banos, California. In 1993, he was fired.
In 2004, after moving to Las Vegas and forming a helicopter business, he convinced the sheriff of Merced County, California to swear him in as a part-time, reserve deputy.
Airola told the Eyewitness News I-Team that he flew from Las Vegas to Merced on weekends when he had the time and worked 10 to 15 hours per month, flying his helicopters.
Why did he want a law enforcement credential? In an interview with Eyewitness News in July 2006, Airola said he did talk with the sheriff of Merced County. "I told him I'm going to run for sheriff in Clark County and he knew that. I need to get my foot back in the door of law enforcement," Airola said.
Ten months later, in September 2005, the sheriff terminated Airola for a simple reason -- it's against the law to be a peace officer in California while being a resident of another state.
The sheriff confirmed this in a letter to Eyewitness News. But this did not stop Airola from telling people that he is still a sworn officer. In December 2005, months after he was let go by Merced, Airola appeared before the Boulder City council. He asked the council to trust him.
"I've never been told I can't be trusted. I've been a police officer since 1985 and still today am a sworn full time police officer. It's a personal insult to me to tell me I can't be trusted," Airola told the council.
However, Airola was not a police officer in 1985. He didn't begin in Los Banos until 1991. His claim to the council that he was still a full time officer was simply untrue. He'd been canned months before.
When Airola began his campaign for sheriff earlier this year, his TV ads made the claim again. "I'm a cop, a businessman, and a father." Businessman yes, cop no. His company and campaign websites continued to claim that Airola was still a sworn officer more than a year after he was let go from his part-time job.
In media appearances this summer, he told reporters that he still serves in Merced. On Face to Face with Jon Ralston, he whipped out a police identification. "It say's Jerry Airola, Deputy Sheriff."
When questioned by the Eyewitness News I-Team, Airola continued the claim.
George Knapp: "If I call the department, they will tell me you are a cop there?
Jerry Airola, sheriff candidate: "Absolutely. Matter of fact, you can call the sheriff there."
Eyewitness News did call, and the sheriff confirmed to us that Airola was asked to leave the department nearly a year before. Airola was also inaccurate when he told us he had taken a leave of absence from Merced. It was not a leave, according to the sheriff. It was a permanent separation since Airola could not legally serve there.
There are other cloudy claims in Airola's background. In the 1990's, Airola owned a company that sold water purification systems in Las Vegas. He gave himself a title as director of engineering, even though he is not an engineer.
In two separate newspaper articles, Airola is identified as an engineer. One of those articles listed the colleges he supposedly attended, including earning a masters degree in chemical engineering from San Jose State. That university told Eyewitness News that Airola was never a student there.
Airola told Jon Ralston he has no idea how two different reporters got the idea he had college degrees in engineering. "It doesn't make sense. I certainly didn't say it."
This is a full-page newspaper ad from 1999, paid for by Airola, written by Airola, describing himself as Jerry Airola, chemical engineer. The article states that Airola has been a chemical engineer since 1984, which is one year after he graduated from high school, and a year before he supposedly became a cop. Attorneys for Sheriff Bill Young and head of the police union, Dave Kallas say it's Airola who's been lying about his background, and they intend to prove it if the case ever gets to court.
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