SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. - Sheriff-elect Christina Corpus is a Latina who just made history in San Mateo County.
"I’d be the first female sheriff in this county since 1856, since it was established and I think that says a lot," Corpus said.
Corpus spoke with KTVU about her grassroots effort campaign that resulted in her unseating incumbent Sheriff Carlos Bolanos.
"I always thought there was enough yearning for change from the people in this county," Corpus said.
She is a 21-year law enforcement veteran who currently serves as the chief of police in Millbrae and as a Captain in the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. She launched her campaign last year against Bolanos.
"Everyone in the beginning said there’s no way you can do it and that really pushed me to work harder," she said. "I had some pushback, a lot of pushback. I just had to learn how to overcome those obstacles that were put in front of me and I was determined."
Corpus ran on a progressive platform for reforms. She is most looking forward to change.
She plans to modify the department’s policy on the use of stun guns following an incident in 2018 where a man named Chinedu Okobi was tased several times by San Mateo County officers for jaywalking. Okobi later died, but officers did not face charges.
"Once you’re tased once then I think that that’s enough because when you [Taser] somebody more than that there’s more of a chance that they would go into excited delirium," she said.
Corpus would like to start a program where officers are trained on how to identify someone who is on the autism spectrum, in an effort to help officers better approach certain situations.
Hiring and attracting more officers is another goal. Corpus intends on diverting resources to provide mental health support for officers and have mental health crisis professionals to respond to some non-violent calls. And she plans to create community advisory boards in the north, south, and coastal parts of the county to get to know the challenges those communities face.
"We have to look for people that have the passion, but also people that have the good hearts that are going to do the right thing when they’re out in the communities we serve," she added.
At 16, Corpus was carjacked at gunpoint while waiting for a friend. She said the officers who helped her treated her with compassion and empathy. The experience set her on a path toward a career in law enforcement.
More than 20 years later she is set to be the county’s top cop. Corpus joins Sheriff-elect Yesenia Sanchez in Alameda County. Once sworn in, they will be the first two Latina sheriffs in California.
"We did the unthinkable," Corpus said. "We unseated incumbents that were part of the status quo that had a large war chest of money… There’s a lot of work to be done but I’m ready for the challenge."
Corpus is married with two children. She is the daughter of immigrants from Nicaragua and Mexico.