When 33-year San Diego Sheriff Department veteran Commander Dave Myers announced he would be running to unseat Sheriff Bill Gore, he says his boss tried to humiliate him in front of the force.
“He took me out of the chain of command and stuck me in the closet. It literally was a broom closet that had been made into an office. It was on the second floor. I had to walk through the evidence room to get to my office. I was ordered to no longer attend any command staff meetings.”
Over his career Myers was at times given oversight of all the patrol stations in the county, all investigative staff, and court security. “After the election he put me in charge of nothing. He gave me no support staff.”
Some of his sworn colleagues got in on the disrespectful fun. “The joke was ‘The gay guy’s back in the closet.’ They would leave notes with the coloring of a rainbow saying ‘Oh, how’s the closet?’ I was the highest ranking openly gay male in a culture that is still resistant to change. We still have a force that is 63 percent white in a county where the population is 23 percent white.”
Yet his coming out in the late '90s did not impede his rising through the ranks. Myers’ promotion to sergeant happened under the late Sheriff Bill Kolender. His successor Bill Gore promoted him three times. “There are only eight commanders in the whole department of 4,300,” says Myers. “There are two grades above commander and then Sheriff.”
He won professional accolades including a medal for lifesaving and the National Sheriff Association Medal of Merit for his work on border crime prevention. But Myers always went against the grain. “In command staff meetings, I started getting the reputation of being a rabble rouser.”
The day after the June 5 election, which he lost 56 percent-43 percent, Myers said he was threatened with discipline for insubordination. “I retired two days after the election,” says Myers about walking away from his $130,000-a-year job.
Myers may have accelerated his exit from the department because he often pointed out Gore never spent a day working in a patrol car before becoming sheriff. (Former FBI special agent Gore was handpicked by Kolender to be his replacement). Or it could have been due to an embarrassing intra-force conflict over body cameras.
“We were in the process of deciding which body camera to equip the force with. I was leading the committee to decide which one to use. Gore was pushing his buddy’s product. Quite frankly, it was a piece of shit. He went around me to push it through. When three choices were presented to the entire staff, the product he was pushing was completely dismissed. I created a paper trail so that, if he had pushed his buddy’s product to the front of the line, it would have become a criminal matter.”
Since leaving the force, Myers has followed two different pursuits. He is running along with Dr. Akilah Weber as one of two Democrats trying to unseat Republican incumbents Guy McWhirter and Bill Baber on the La Mesa city council. Both seats are citywide. “In La Mesa there are 14,000 Democrats and 8,000 Republicans, but the La Mesa town council has not been led by a majority Democratic council since it became a city in 1912.”
But his other, unpaid crusade has taken him to speak about jails at such diverse groups as the San Diego Women’s Club and the San Diego Environmentalists.
He maintains that privately run jails cheapen public safety. “Big corporations should not make money off of incarcerating people. Once you involve major corporations into public safety, you completely pervert the system. A private corporation should never make money off the backs of inmates at the expense of public safety.”
Myers says private jailing companies are attempting to “…infiltrate local law enforcement agencies” by influencing such heavy hitting Democrats like State Senator Todd Gloria and State Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins with tens of thousands in campaign cash.
Myers says companies like the Geo Group of Florida or CoreCivic of Tennessee regularly gouge inmates once they get control of prisons. Each of those two groups run two local facilities. “They are controlling mental health services and drug dispensaries in jail,” Myers said at a recent Fallbrook Democratic meeting. “They are charging $5 for a phone call or $5 to mail a letter because they can. A pack of cookies is upwards of $6.”
He hopes his talks turned the tide. “I can now report that the politicians who were comfortable taking their money are now publicly pledging never to accept it again,” says Myers.
Myers says it was ironic that then Sheriff Kolender asked him to take Gore around and introduce him to the rank and file when Gore was being pushed as Kolender’s heir apparent in 2005.
“I was on the board of directors of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association. He told me ‘I need you to take this guy around and introduce him to people.’ There was tension with the rank and file because he was an outsider who came from a federal agency.”
Myers says Kolender took him under his wing. “I first came out in the late 90s. I had been on the department for 15 years. I was well liked, but he knew it was not a good culture for someone like me. But he was the first Jewish San Diego police chief and then the first Jewish sheriff in the history of San Diego. He kind of looked after me. He said ‘I don’t care whose ---- you suck, I will protect you.’”
Myers says he has heard from former deputies since the election. “Things have not gotten any better in the department….Plus Gore promised he would have a review in the Rebecca Zahau [Coronado homicide] case within 90 days. It’s been over 200 days and nothing.”
Would ex-Commander Myers ever consider running for sheriff again? “Yes. Do not be intimidated by losing. Pick yourself up and get back in the race.”