On Dec. 4, once James Ramos and Robert Lovingood are sworn in as San Bernardino County's new 3rd and 1st district supervisors, the board will begin discussing the appointment of a new sheriff.

Sheriff Rod Hoops, who announced he was retiring after 34 years with the department, has recommended to the board that Assistant Sheriff John McMahon succeed him.

But McMahon has competition.

Former Deputy Chief Keith Bushey and Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Paul Schrader, who ran against Hoops in 2010, have also put their names in the hat for the job.

McMahon, 48, has worked for the department for 27 years and oversees criminal operations, including all patrol stations, specialized investigations and SWAT.

"We're facing some serious challenges in the future with realignment and the budget. I understand that very well, and I'm prepared to deal with that," said McMahon, a Phelan resident.

He said he believes he has the support of the majority of the rank-and-file in the department and has been working with county Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux on building a solid working relationship.

Among McMahon's top priorities will be seeing construction of the Adelanto Detention Center through. He said the jail is roughly a year shy from completion and will add 1,400 beds, alleviating overcrowded conditions at the county's other jails.


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In addition, McMahon said he will push for more state funding for the building of classrooms and facilities for skills training for inmates so they have the tools necessary to become productive members of society upon their release from custody, which makes them less likely to re-offend.

Bushey is a former Los Angeles police commander who was involved in such high-profile criminal cases as the death of comedian John Belushi in 1983 and the 1994 slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in Brentwood, in which former NFL pro O.J. Simpson became the prime suspect.

Bushey also served as a law enforcement community liaison to Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and was the former San Bernardino County Marshal before becoming a deputy chief in 1999, when the Marshal's office merged with the Sheriff's Department.

Bushey, who is a staff instructor for the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, says he has a great deal of respect and admiration for McMahon, but doesn't believe he has the skills and experience necessary to lead an organization of more than 3,500 employees with an annual budget of $440 million.

"I don't know if there's a finer man on the face of the Earth than John McMahon, but he doesn't have the scar tissue he needs, and I think most would acknowledge that," Bushey said.

Schrader, a 49-year-old Rancho Cucamonga resident of 14 years, ran against Hoops in 2010 but came in a distant second. Still, he believes that puts him ahead of McMahon and Bushey because he has the taxpayer vote.

"Neither one of the guys asking for the position now have one vote from anyone in the county," Schrader said. "The voters have already picked who should be next if Hoops should decide not to continue his time in office."

Schrader has 26 years of law enforcement experience under his belt. He began his career at the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department before moving on to the San Clemente Police Department, the West Memphis Police Department and then back to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

"Right now the number one concern in the (San Bernardino County) Sheriff's Department is the lack of deputies on the street," Schrader said. "That would be my number one priority - to do an audit to try and find the funds within the department that probably exist to do this."

He said he will also continue ramping up security at the jails, especially the Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center in Devore, where three inmates escaped this year.

Schrader said he led a risk assessment team at the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department after a spate of in-custody deaths and helped prepare a cost-analysis to pinpoint where the department should and shouldn't be spending its money and allocating resources. 

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Josie Gonzales said the board will form an ad hoc committee consisting of two supervisors at the Dec. 4 meeting. The committee will interview the applicants then take its recommendations back to the board, Gonzales said.

In addition, Gonzales said she will propose an amendment to the county charter that would call for a special election whenever elected officials leave office mid-term.

"The sheriff's position is such an important elected position that it deserves an election regardless of when a vacancy occurs," Gonzales said. "That way it's up to the people, and the people are the boss, and that needs to be respected."

Hoops announced his retirement the day after the general election on Nov. 6 to take a job with the Police Foundation, a Wasington D.C.-based think tank funded by the Ford Corporation and headed by former Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann.

Hoops said Bueermann approached him several months ago with the offer, but he wanted to wait until after the election before announcing he was taking the job so as not to interfere with the election process.

He said he has grown weary of rumors and speculation about his departure and is ready to enter the next chapter of his life.

As to how his successor is selected, Hoops said he has made his recommendation, but respects Gonzales' proposal of putting future decisions to a vote of the people.

"I'm for the will of the people," Hoops said.


Reach Joe via email, call him at 909-386-3874, or find him on Twitter @SBCountyNow.