Sheriff Vern Warnke is often asked to speak for service clubs in Merced County. It’s part of his job to inform the public.
Be prepared, as he is a “No Holds Barred” speaker.
If you don’t want the truth, then you better not invite him.
He was the guest speaker of the Merced Rotary last week. And he had a lot to say — not all, perhaps, to the liking of other county leaders.
His message and mission is to keep the Sheriff’s Department fully staffed, and in order to do this, the county needs to pay competitive wages. But Merced County doesn’t pay competitive wages, and this is why Warnke has to go before the Board of Supervisors every year to ask for better pay for his officers. Some of the supervisors don’t like this.
These officers are putting in 36 hours a week, 12 hours a day, for three days — and it is not easy work, according to Warnke. They have to be prepared for whatever comes. During the flood early this year, the sheriff’s deputies were the ones who were out there in Planada, McSwain, and even Merced when Bear Creek overflowed.
“In all of these cases, it was human error which caused the problem,” he said.
Sheriff Warnke’s staff saved numerous animals, lives, and property. Many people responded to help when asked, but there were people who responded and their help was not wanted. He said when the water was shoulder high in Planada, a truck driver was barreling down the street leaving a wake which was potentially dangerous and people could have been injured.
“The people of Planada came out to help,” he stressed. “They were there helping to unload water which was absolutely necessary.”
People gave supplies and never asked for a dime in return, he said.
Warnke might be described as a “No Nonsense Sheriff,” and in a way, he almost made it seem like John Wayne was up there speaking.
He retired once from the Sheriff’s Department only to come back to run for the top post. He won that election and has had no problem being re-elected ever since.
Merced County knows when it has a good Sheriff, and the feeling about Warnke is: “He is one of the best” giving back to the county what the county has given him.
The sheriff said he appreciated the support he has received from different areas like the Hilmar Farm Watch, who showed up en masse at a meeting before the Merced County Board of Supervisors. He makes no bones about being liked or disliked, and he reminds people it takes a majority of supervisors in Merced County to get things done.
Any one county supervisor has no power by him or herself.
He was asked to speak to the issue of Homelessness in Merced County. He said the big problem is for the state to realize these people need help and what kind of help they need. He said there are plenty of facilities for the homeless, and Merced has an excellent Navigation Center with a hundred beds available. However, there are nights when only a few people are using them.
Warnke described one homeless man who said he would not use the homeless center because he did not want anyone telling him he had to be in by 8 p.m.
The sheriff urged people not to give homeless people money on the street as it just perpetuates the problem. They need other help, but will not seek it as long as they get what they want standing at a corner in the roadway.