Keeping it Real: A Culture of Lawlessness in Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

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Millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs were seized by Riverside authorities last week–the culmination of a nearly year long investigation. 

The amount of drugs seized included 376 pounds of methamphetamine, 1.4 kilograms of cocaine, 37.4 pounds of fentanyl and 600,000 fentanyl tablets with the potential to provide  ingredients for nearly 10 million lethal doses and were worth an estimated $16 million. 

The news does not end there. These drugs were part of a Mexican cartel trafficking operation and the investigation also resulted in the arrest of 15 people. Unfortunately, the arrests included that of an allegedly corrupt Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy. 

Details of the deputy’s involvement were passed to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department which led to the deputy’s arrest with 104 pounds of fentanyl pills in his possession.

Although Riverside County Sheriff Bianco may spin the story and point to the deputy’s arrest as proof his department is cleaning house, it begs a question regarding why the deputy was operating as a corrections officer in the first place, especially with all the attention placed on the department with the spike in incustody deaths in Riverside jails in 2022, where drug overdoses played a major role as recorded in a Black Voice News in a special report released in January. 

No matter how you slice it, ongoing reports about the antics of Riverside County deputies is bad and getting worse. 

When news broke of this most recent arrest of another Riverside County deputy for their role in illegal activities, it appeared as just another day in an agency that more and more seems rife with malfeasance.  Has the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department become a team of lawless, law enforcement officers who are currently being led by a sheriff with questionable performance as the county’s top law enforcement leader?

I am not challenging what Bianco’s capabilities were as a deputy, etc. while he worked his way up the law enforcement ladder before running for sheriff. We have no way of knowing how he performed as a corrections officer at the Robert Presley Detention Center or while on patrol or working narcotics in the City of Lake Elsinore. Nor can I criticize his performance in his various administrative positions, supervisory or management roles over the years. 

What I will say, however, is that since pinning on the badge of county sheriff, Bianco’s ability to effectively lead an agency with oversight responsibility tor five jail facilities, six court buildings, a civil bureau, the Coroner’s Bureau, Public Administrator’s Office, nearly 20  contract cities, about 4,000 employees and an operating budget of nearly a billion dollars, again and again his leadership acumen is called into question. 

Bianco has remained a lightning rod since he took office in 2019, sparked by a laundry list of curious mishaps that include everything from having to be ordered by a judge during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis to protect people in custody in Riverside County jails to refusing the state vaccine mandate for Sheriff Department employees to having to defend his membership in the now, seditious conspiracy, involved Oath Keepers  to being investigated by the CA Attorney General for alleged Civil Rights violations—the list of his questionable actions has continued to expand.

The infamous list above does not include what appears to be rampant lawlessness by Riverside County sheriff deputies on his watch. 

We can begin by recalling that last September, seven women who had spent time in a Riverside County jail filed federal cases against Riverside County that alleged liability for sexual abuse admitted by correctional deputy, Christian Heidecker, who pleaded guilty to 11 felonies Feb. 23, and was sentenced to five years in prison.  

Also, last September, two Riverside County deputies were arrested and charged with drug possession — Brent Bishop Turnwall, 22, and Jorge Oceguera-Rocha, 25. Although neither were accused of distribution drugs in the jails, Turnwall was arrested while at work at Cois M. Byrd Detention Center. He was charged with being under the influence. 

That same month, another deputy, Oceguera-Rocha, a corrections officer at Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility, was charged with possession of narcotics for sale and transporting it for sale. At the time of his arrest, he purportedly had about 100 pounds of packaged fentanyl pills in his vehicle. 

During an interview with Black Voice News last year, Bianco spoke about the 2022 increase in drug overdoses in the jails stating, “There is a market to purposely smuggle drugs into jail,” he said, claiming that people get arrested so they can bring drugs into the facilities. “They swallow it, they insert it, they’re underneath their fingernails, their toenails. They do everything they can to try and get it in, and unfortunately, sometimes they make it.”

Bianco also acknowledged that the deaths were unfortunate and then went on to say, “but it certainly wasn’t at the hands of our deputies.”  Well, maybe not, but who can say with certainty, because one thing we know for sure is that some of his deputies/corrections officers do not appear to have clean hands.

As rumors began to surface that Bianco is now considering a bid for governor, it leaves one to wonder whether or not this man has any self awareness. Why would we consider electing someone like him to serve as governor when he continues to demonstrate the limits of his leadership skills and abilities to lead the Sheriff’s Department? 

We can not wait to see whether rumors of his run for governor come true. We should act now to spread the word regarding his short comings. This is important because his campaign is certain to be well funded by police unions and other like minded individuals. 

For this reason, it is important that we educate our family, friends and neighbors about the works of Bianco and deputies under his stewardship, so that when, and if, a Bianco campaign for governor is launched, they are well informed and do not believe the hype that is certain to come. 

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.

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