Why I Endorsed Kevin Jensen for Santa Clara County Sheriff

Sheriff Laurie Smith & Sierra LaMar

Sheriff Laurie Smith & Sierra LaMar

I wish to add my name to the growing list of law enforcement fraternal organizations, business leaders who are supporting Kevin Jensen’s candidacy for Sheriff of Santa Clara County. Although I am not a resident of Santa Clara County I have had opportunities to interact with Sheriff Laurie Smith and firmly believe that the citizens of Santa Clara County deserve a new direction and new leadership in the public safety arena.

 

During the days and months following the disappearance of Sierra LaMar I worked with her family and a large volunteer force to organize and establish the Sierra Search Center. Many thousands of individuals have volunteered time and tens of thousands of hours have been donated to assist with the search for Sierra LaMar. The Sierra Search Center, now run by Sierra’s family and a core group of volunteers, has now entered its third year.

 

Throughout the process of searching for Sierra we reached out to the Sheriff Smith on many occasions requesting passive information that would not impact the case, but might assist our efforts to better focus on viable search areas. Unfortunately, despite the fact that her office no longer dispatches SAR teams to look for Sierra LaMar, Sheriff Laurie Smith has ignored all of our requests.

 

I have been involved in organizing civilian search efforts since my daughter Polly was kidnapped in 1993. None of the numerous searches that we have engaged have ever been stonewalled by the jurisdictional law enforcement like the search for Sierra LaMar.

 

Sierra LaMar remains missing and Santa Clara County needs a new Sheriff. Join me in supporting the candidacy of Kevin Jensen for Santa Clara County Sheriff.

 

Response from Sheriff Smith’s campaign political consultant:

“It is sad that Mr. Klass is so thoroughly misinformed on this subject. No individual has done more to protect the public from the suspect or followed up more leads in the search for Sierra LaMarr. It is unfortunate that Mr. Klass is being used for political purposes in this way. This continues to be an ongoing investigation and the Sheriff will do nothing to prejudice the case against the suspect. She cannot comment and her uninformed opponents know it. That said, as a Mother, she will not rest until Sierra is found and the perpetrator brought to justice.”

 

My response to their response:

I’ve never met Kevin Jensen and I didn’t endorse him for Santa Clara Sheriff for political or personal reasons. I endorsed Mr. Jensen because he seems supremely qualified, and the current Sheriff Laurie Smith did not assist our volunteer search for Sierra LaMar. This is one of the few times in my 20 years of organizing volunteer searches that our efforts were totally stonewalled by the jurisdictional law enforcement agency.

 

The Sheriff’s response says that I am misinformed, but I would like to point out that they misspelled my name (Klaas, not Klass) and Sierra’s name (LaMar, not LaMarr). This leads me to believe that they are uninformed!

Creating Order out of Chaos!

The two guiding principles that drive missing person cases are chaos and order. Chaos rules the family. Their precepts of normalcy are obliterated, and their faith is oftentimes challenged, as they are thrust into a foreign environment that defies logic and experience. Law enforcement, especially if the jurisdictional agency has limited experience investigating missing child cases, is also subject to chaos. Chaos reigns in the community as rumor and innuendo inevitably insert themselves and anonymous bloggers level outrageous theories or point accusatory fingers at family members. Finally, chaos is multiplied as the second wave of predators inserts themselves into ongoing investigations.
I can speak from experience that there is nothing to prepare a family for the disappearance of a child. Whether they are missing for ten minutes in a department store, or months during a lingering investigation, panic and fear quickly dominate our emotions. But, because of our experience, professionalism and issue knowledge the KlaasKids Foundation can be a stabilizing force after a family invites to search for their missing child.
One hopes that order dominates official efforts to investigate and solve the case. Fortunately, many if not most law enforcement agencies have missing child investigative templates or protocols to guide their efforts. Unfortunately, most law enforcement agencies have little to no experience in missing child investigations, and their best efforts can be chaotic at best. However, as State and Federal resources are drawn into investigations protocols, templates, and experience usually, but not always, increase exponentially.
Media is a wild card. In the rush to be first many media outlets throw caution to the wind and report rumor as fact. Or, they offer speculation and opinion as hard knowledge. When Polly was missing certain television reporters would breathlessly report that her remains had been found every time a dog bone was turned over. However, there are also media outlets that take a much more rational, cautious and deliberate approach to these troubling cases. Again, the approach is dependent upon experience, attitude, and a desire to be first as opposed to do the right thing. Personally, I believe that newspapers demonstrate the most restraint and usually provide the best overall service. That is because viable newspaper stories historically have depth based in knowledge. Conversely, the most damage can unusually be found on the blogosphere. After all, blogging requires zero experience, many bloggers exist under the cloak of anonymity, and they are not burdened by standards or ethics.
Then there is the world of non-profit agencies. We are the gray area between government and the private sector. Most non-profit child locator services exist to help the family. Although many NPO’s in our sub-category are founded with the best of intentions, not many survive long enough to pursue long term goals or intentions. Those unable to survive, and those numbers have increased these past few years, dissolve because of dissent from within, they are unable to achieve sustainable funding, or do not have the leadership and vision necessary to get beyond adrenalin driven emotional response to tragedy.
For more than 17-years the KlaasKids Foundation has worked very hard to bring order to our approach. We attempt to respond to all aspects of the missing child issue with professional standards and reason. We adhere to proven protocols, some of which we have developed and others that we have adopted from other agencies. We represent families as we seek the cooperation of law enforcement, community and media. In other words, we try to bring order and provide hope to families that are frozen in fear as they try not to seek salvation beyond hope.
Our most critical, difficult and sensitive work is always in the immediate aftermath of tragedy. We talk with families, offer counsel and resources and when necessary intervene with search and rescue resources. We must demonstrate to law enforcement that our participation will enhance their efforts, will remove responsibility from their overburdened shoulders, and that we can be trusted with a seat at the table. This kind of trust will never be assumed, but must be earned every time that we show up at the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, resistance has not decreased as our portfolio has increased. Therefore, we must continue to pursue the dual goals of bringing order to chaos, and assisting in the recovery of missing persons.