Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal appointed Justin “JD” Braud as undersheriff last week and on Tuesday both men sat down for an interview about the process that led to the appointment and what the plans are for the future.
Braud, whose Humboldt County roots date back to his first cousins William Carson and Red John Hill’s emigration to the area in the mid-1800s, steps into a position that plays a key role in the command structure and the daily operations of the Sheriff’s Office.
Having seen an opportunity to make another career step, Braud applied for the position with a notion that this was a chance to make a real difference in his home community.
“I wouldn’t have put in for the position if I didn’t think I could make difference if given the opportunity,” Braud said as he sported the two stars of undersheriff on his uniform collar. “When he (Honsal) made his decision he notified me and asked me if I would accept and to be honest, that’s not really the time to say no. He said, ‘Here’s the opportunity to make real changes, are you going to walk the walk or talk the talk?’”
Braud, a native of Eureka and a graduate from Eureka High School and College of the Redwoods Police Academy, began his law enforcement career with the Sheriff’s Office in 2002. He would serve on the SWAT team, the Drug Task Force and as a patrol deputy before he accepted a position with the Eureka Police Department in 2007.
With the EPD, Braud served on the Problem Oriented Police Team as part of the department’s focus on community-oriented policing and it’s those experiences from POP and the strong community focus he now brings to the Sheriff’s Office.
When asked if the strategy of the POP team and community-oriented policing was a good one Braud said yes, but with some explanation.
“POP can be effective but it must be coupled with community-oriented policing because if you have a POP team that lacks good customer service or that fails to follow through on complaints all you have are officers who aren’t tied to a radio,” he said. “You can have POP in name and it doesn’t have any effect if you are not following through to address chronic issues, it just doesn’t work. When you combine effectively quality problem-oriented policing with community-oriented policing, they work.”
Among those community-based issues Braud and Honsal will focus on are dealing with nuisances like drug houses and flophouses. Honsal said they are looking at the expansion of the Drug Enforcement Unit as a means to address some of those ongoing problem areas.
“This is one of the undersheriff’s priorities as he starts out, to look at our POP team and look at how we can improve,” Honsal said. “The DEU has been expanded through the use of Measure S funds and we are looking at how to expand further to go after more than just marijuana issues but homelessness and other nuisance issues. It’s got to be a coordinated effort, POP and the community all working together so when a complaint comes in there is immediate followup.”
Braud said serving in every sheriff’s station in the county and his work with the EPD gave him insight into the severity of crime that occurs in the city and across the county.
“I have a lot of experience in a lot of areas of law enforcement and it’s important that information not be held in cache,” he said. “We need to educate everybody about the problems we face and as they say knowledge is power.”
Braud was hired back by the sheriff’s office in 2013 and was promoted to sergeant in 2014.
“Number one, you have an opportunity to make changes to operations; we have 280 employees, we have special operations, the jail, DEU, Drug Task Force, bomb squad, all of those things,” Honsal said. “We are the lead law enforcement agency in the county and being undersheriff really set me up for being sheriff because I had a great understanding of operations and how to lead an overall organization. I wanted someone who is a proven leader, community-minded, approachable and friendly but who can make decisions and be decisive. JD has really taken the public service concepts that we mandate at the sheriff’s office, he is a true public servant, putting himself second to the needs of everyone else.”
For Braud, the chance to expand on that community-focused work means the chance to make a real difference.
“We will work to maximize our ability to reach long-term solutions rather than short-term quick fixes and we have to ensure we have good customer service,” he said. “Those solutions are all part of the community’s health and wellness and it will take effort from everyone. There is no one solution that will fix everything.”