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June 5, 2018 — California Primary Election
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Nevada CountyCandidate for Sheriff/Coroner

Photo of John Foster

John Foster

Retired Police Chief
11,317 votes (31.49%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • We're in this together-- together we will make Nevada County a safe place to live, work, play and raise our families
  • School safety and the safety of our children is a top priority.
  • Those without homes and the community affected by the homeless deserves the attention of the Sheriff. It's not a crime to be homeless but those without homes who commit crimes need to be held accountable. And we must address underlying causes.



Federal Bureau of Investigation Executive Leadership Institute, FBI Executive Leadership (2012)
Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training POST Executive Certificate, Executive Development Course (2009)
University of San Francisco Masters Degree, Public Administration (1990)
California State University, Sacramento Bachelor of Arts, Criminal Justice (1980)


John grew up in Alameda and Oakland, California, with his single mother and two siblings. His unstable home environment, financial struggles and frequent moves taught him about the challenges faced by young people who don’t have strong community and family support. John’s childhood experiences also helped him understand that effective law enforcement must provide practical help and leadership to a community.


John got his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Sacramento State University. He then went to work for the Palo Alto Police Department as a patrol officer.


Following a series of promotions, and after earning a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco, John and Eileen moved to Oregon where he served for four years as a Police Captain for the Corvallis Police Department.


In 1998 John returned to California, where he became Chief of Police of Grass Valley, a post he held for over 17 years.


As Chief, John introduced many innovative programs that improved community relations. He forged strong, enduring partnerships with schools, students, citizens and local businesses.


John has been recognized often for his leadership of the Grass Valley Police Department, especially for setting the highest standards of community policing with a focus on youth and citizenship.


Now it’s time to bring his experience, innovation and leadership to Nevada County, to serve you as your next Sheriff.


  • Master of Public Administration from the University of San Francisco

  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justicefrom California State University, Sacramento

  • Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Executive Development Course–awarded Executive Certificate

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Executive Leadership Institute

Who supports this candidate?

Organizations (6)

  • Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council comprised of 25 affiliated Labor Unions
  • California Police Chiefs Association
  • Central Sierra Police Chiefs Association
  • Grass Valley Police Officers Association
  • Nevada City Police Officers Association
  • Truckee Police Officers Association

Elected Officials (1)

  • Former Nevada County Sheriff Troy Arbaugh

Individuals (11)

  • Paul Cappitelli, Executive Director (Retired), Commission of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST
  • Michael Gomez, Former Bureau Chief, Commission Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST)
  • Jim Wickham, Nevada City Police Chief, 2012-2013
  • Lou Travato, Nevada City Police Chief, 1996-2011
  • Timothy Foley, Nevada City Police Chief, 2014-2018
  • Adam McGill, Truckee Police Chief, 2011-2016
  • Nicholas Sensley, Truckee Police Chief, 2008-2011
  • Scott Berry, Truckee Police Chief, 2003-2008
  • Dan Boon, Truckee Police Chief, 2001-2003
  • Bob Vernon, Assistant Police Chief, Los Angeles (retired) Pointman Leadership Institute Founder
  • Amanda and Nick Wilcox

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

Anyone who has known or worked with me knows I’m all about Community Policing, although a good number ask What is Community Policing? 

Community Policing is the recognized Best Practice in changing a law enforcement agency from being reactive to proactive. It has three critical features:  Community Partnerships, Community Problem-Solving, and Organizational Transformation. In Police Departments and Sheriff Offices that have adopted Community Policing, research shows significant increases in citizen satisfaction and response benefits.

I’m proud to say that both of these benefits have been realized in the Grass Valley Police Department since we adopted Community Policing, and the program’s success continues today under Chief Alex Gammelgard.

Community Partnerships are an important component, beginning with building robust connections with our youth, community leaders and civic and faith-based organizations.  It’s more than just words; it’s showing up, listening and sharing.  I opened a Community Policing Office in a grocery store that was frequented by residents of nearby apartment complexes to make it easier to access services.  I implemented foot and bike patrols in the downtown areas.  My officers and I met with local organizations and became a known part of our community.  I also created the first School Resource Officer position in Grass Valley.

As your Sheriff, I will place deputies in county neighborhoods and on school campuses so residents and youth can get to know them.  I will also enhance the participation of deputies attending community and school events.

Community Problem Solving is the second component of Community Policing. In Grass Valley–and I’d bring this to Nevada County as your Sheriff–I worked with the Peace Officers Association to develop new evaluation processes.  Each officer had to address at least four annual projects that began with neighbors and officers identifying local problems and solutions.  Officers started Neighborhood Watch Programs, helped reclaim neighborhood parks for families and children and provided safety presentations for youth and neighborhoods. I started the Summer Youth Academy for middle school students, giving the students decision-making skills before heading off to high school.  These approaches help make an organization proactive, rather than reactive.  They also help keep minor problems from escalating into major concerns.

Right now drug cartels are a major problem in our county. I’m not talking about the legal or small growers but the illegal cartels that are wreaking havoc with our environment, terrorizing our neighbors and holding families hostage in Mexico while providing forced labor here.  The public has been complaining, but they’ve been ignored because the Sheriff’s Office says they lack the resources to go after the cartels. This is unacceptable.  As your Sheriff, I will partner with federal agencies to eradicate the cartels from our county.

Organizational Transformation is the final element of Community Policing.  It’s about changing the culture of an organization.  Most law enforcement agencies have a mission statement that begins with public service because law enforcement is about serving the public.  Community Policing takes public service from words to practice.

This transformation doesn’t just magically happen.  It takes leadership, hard work and knowledge of Community Policing practices.  Grass Valley Police Department changed its evaluation criteria to emphasize problem solving and communication, two key elements in working with the public, while bringing in tools and training to support the changes.

Our deputies need the best possible training in the latest techniques, and that includes incentives for higher education.  I will bring in advanced training, such as the Interactive Video Simulation Training for de-escalating potentially dangerous situations with the mentally ill.  Deputies also need tools, and I’m committed to issuing Body Cameras which other departments have had for decades.  They’re a safety issue, both for deputies and the public.

Here’s another issue you might not be aware of:  The law says you have the right, even if jailed, to meet face-to-face with your attorney.  No windows, no bars, just face-to-face meetings between client and attorney.  Such meetings were not allowed in our county's jail, resulting in a lawsuit and an Appeals Court ruling directing the Sheriff’s Office to allow the lawful meetings.  It cost our county $100,000.

If the Sheriff's Office is charged with enforcing the law, we need to follow the law.

Community Policing is not about maintaining the status quo, and it’s definitely not campaign rhetoric about strategic plans or lack of resources.  It’s about doing business differently to better serve the public. It’s a change our county deserves, and it can only happen if your Sheriff is an experienced leader grounded in the principles of Community Policing.

Position Papers

School Safety


People talk a lot about School Safety, usually after there’s been an active shooter at a school.  I feel strongly that we should address School Safety everyday, not just after a national tragedy.

We are fortunate to live in California, with one of the most rigorous and comprehensive School Safety Plan laws in the nation. 


The Safety Plan process begins with an annual assessment of school and neighborhood crime, disciplinary and mental health statistics.  Using that data, the School Site Council or a team of administrators, association representatives, parents and law enforcement decides on one or two safety problems, such as bullying, drugs or stress, as well as strategies to address the issue in the upcoming school year.


Mandated Policies and Procedures and training for all staff are also included. These include critical procedures for addressing Suicide Prevention, Bullying, Sexual Harassment, Drills and Emergency Management procedures. As we have learned, bullying and depression can cause a victim to become a perpetrator. 


When the process is completed, the team, including law enforcement, signs off on the Safety Plan to certify that it is in compliance with the law.


Safety Plans include drill procedures. There are newer lockdown guidelines that are considered Best Practices. While nothing is failsafe, these procedures are the companion response to law enforcement’s Active Shooter Protocols and have been developed with input from both law enforcement and teachers who have experienced an active shooter incident.  At a minimum, we should review these procedures for our schools.


Law enforcement provides support for lockdown drills.  Deputies function as coaches, helping students and teachers.  These drills should empower children of all ages, not terrify them; they should be no more frightening than an earthquake or fire drill. These drills are not designed for law enforcement to practice their entry procedures.


I think it’s also prudent to form a Juvenile Justice Multi-Disciplinary Team that, if established correctly under state provisions, allows confidential information to be freely shared between law enforcement and school administrators to help prevent, identify and control juvenile crime.  This information, which typically cannot be shared, can be critical in preventing potentially dangerous incidents.


It’s important that we also address prevention.


The county’s agencies and organizations, including law enforcement, must partner with schools to ensure a safe environment where our children can thrive and learn. I want deputies and staff to be on school campuses, supporting our youth in their learning, activities and athletics.  Our deputies should be part of the school community as another trusted adult that children can rely on and talk to. 


Another member in this broad collaborative should be School Resource Officers (SRO).  While it would be ideal for each school to have an SRO, our Sheriff’s Office can, at minimum, provide a trained Regional School Officer Resource Team for our campuses.


I will form a Youth Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention and Outreach Team, partnering with other county and community agencies to provide mentoring and prevention programs for youth. We know education works for the younger children. We could model a prevention program for them after a successful summer program I started for middle schoolers in Grass Valley.  


Teens are a different story. While any parent knows you can’t tell a teenager what to do, we also know teenagers are fiercely protective of younger siblings.


Both SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) recommend environmental strategies with teenagers.


Here’s an example of this strategy:


As part of their high school’s required community service hours, teens did a “community mapping” to see where alcohol and marijuana were being sold.  The students were appalled to find that a majority of dispensaries were located next to elementary, middle and high schools. They were even more upset to realize that human billboards appeared every afternoon as students left campus.  Upset at the perceived targeting of younger kids, the teens organized across the city and forced the City Council to rezone the dispensaries to comply with existing regulations for stores selling alcohol.


Law enforcement needs to partner with schools and Behavioral Health to seek funding so that resources are available to youth who need help or want to change their behaviors.  At the same time, law enforcement must hold dealers and the few bad apples accountable for their actions.


School Safety is not a simple or easy proposition. It takes planning and strategic thinking by all stakeholders.  Because, when it comes to keeping our children and schools safe, we’re all in this together.




Every person who lives, works or plays in Nevada County deserves equal public safety services from the Sheriff’s Office.

Those without homes deserve to be protected and provided the same level of service as everyone else. Dignity and respect is not something to be afforded to some and not others.


Homelessness is not a crime. That’s why the Sheriff’s Office will promote a nontraditional community policing approach that incorporates flexibly, creativity and partnerships. We need to develop an intervention process that can improve the quality of life for everyone in our community.


We will hold accountable all who choose to break the law. And we will help those who want to address underlying causes that may have lead to homelessness.


I’ll establish a regional patrol response team to enhance patrol efforts and reduce homeless offender offenses in the County. We’ll develop protocols with Nevada County Mental Health, the District Attorney’s Office, Probation and social services agencies to ensure that we adopt a collaborative approach to reducing the homeless population in Nevada County.

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