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Ingrid Braun, a veteran Los Angeles law enforcement officer who currently serves with her husband as a reserve officer with the Mammoth Lakes Police Department, has initiated a campaign for Mono County Sheriff.
Braun, 46, pulled nomination papers earlier this month to run against current Sheriff Ralph Obenberger, who also has pulled papers for the June 3 election.
A 21-year veteran officer with the L.A. Police Department who lives in Mammoth, Braun was let go from the Sheriff’s department last year with six days remaining in her one-year probationary term.
Obenberger currently is serving out the term left vacant toward the end of 2012 when then-Sheriff Rick Scholl retired.
Braun, an accomplished athlete who is active with the Eastside Velo Club’s women’s cycling race team and is a ski racer on the Far West circuit, said she pulled nomination papers at the urging of community members in both North County and South County.
“This was not something I sought out,” she said in an interview. “This was not like I had an epiphany that I should run for sheriff. I thought about it a long time ago, back in the summer, and gave it some cursory thought, but said at the time that I don’t need the headache and the heartache.
“But right before Christmas, I got some phone calls from leaders in North County, Mammoth, and South County, who had contacts—civic leaders and community leaders—asking me to run for sheriff, saying that we need a choice, we need a change, and asking if I would please consider it.
“That’s when I said OK, but I thought about it long and hard over Christmas. I discussed it with my husband, my parents, my sisters and their husbands and received nothing but encouragement from the family.”
Last November, she and her husband, Mike Braun, both retired from the LAPD and signed on as Level One Reserve Officers with the MLPD.
Ingrid retired as a Lieutenant after 21 years of service, and Mike retired as a Senior Lead Officer with 26 years of law enforcement experience, according to a news release at the time issued by MLPD Chief Dan Watson, himself a longtime LAPD officer.
Level One Reserve Officers are able to work unsupervised after completing field training.
In addition to working patrol shifts and special events, Braun has assisted with follow-up investigations, while her husband was tasked to help coordinate a Neighborhood Watch Program.
Braun said the centerpiece of her campaign is a promise to help foster goodwill among Mono County residents by having deputies more engaged with the communities in the 3,300-square-mile jurisdiction.
“There seems to be, without putting words in other people’s mouths, a disconnect between the Sheriff’s Department and the community it serves. There’s not a bond there, but there could be.
“There’s kind of an ‘us versus them,’ so I think that’s what people are unhappy with—that they don’t like some of the things that have happened with the Sheriff’s Department.”
Specifically, she cited the events surrounding last September’s Burning Man festival, in which some festivalgoers complained about being targeted by law enforcement officers in Mono County.
That became a flashpoint issue in December, when members of the Board of Supervisors said they wanted to discuss the issue at some point in the future.
In response, Obenberger and about a half-dozen deputies addressed the board during the Public Comments portion of the next board meeting.
In his comments, Obenberger reminded the board of his constitutional authority to handle law enforcement within the county, and that he himself had received substantial community support.
Braun, for one, was not among them.
“Some people are unhappy with the Burning Man response and some people weren’t happy with Sheriff Obenberger’s response to this—to the supervisors asking questions.
“A lot of people would like to see a different style of leadership—a culture shift in the Sheriff’s Department. That’s what I’d like to see.”
She said she did not envision any sweeping changes, should she win the election.
“For the deputies, I don’t think it would look different,” she said.
“I would expect them to answer their call for service and to be out there in the community—if they see a traffic violation that they feel needs stopping, to make the stop; if they feel a ticket needs to be written, to write that ticket.
“They would still arrest the bad guys, still serve warrants, work MONET, and be involved in everything. I wouldn’t change the law enforcement, I just would want more engagement, more interaction.”
Braun also expressed disappointment about the circumstances surrounding her dismissal by Obenberger from the sheriff’s department last year.
“When Sheriff Scholl hired me, he was very much about being in the community and connecting with the community and doing that sort of thing. Once he was gone, the message wasn’t quite the same with Sheriff Obenberger.
“For whatever reasons he has, he let me go when I had six days left on probation, which is within his rights.
“I was in my first year, and I could be let go without being given a reason, and I was not given a reason other than I didn’t fit into the ‘big picture.’
“I don’t know if it surprised me. I didn’t feel completely accepted; I don’t know if it was because I lived in South County and most of the guys live in North County; or if it was because of my gender, or my experience. I don’t know.
“But I did feel like I was walking on eggshells there quite a bit, so was I surprised? Not entirely. I was disappointed, but not really surprised.”
The Obenberger-Braun race is just one of several election races in the county.
Two seats on the board of supervisors are open, as is the assessor’s seat, the schools superintendent seat, and the district attorney’s seat.