submitted by contributing author, Deputy’s Wife
I am a woman. I am a mother. I am a professional. And on every level, I cannot find a reason to vote for Laurie Smith. Even if I was to stand from the point of view of a total outsider, she simply is not the candidate I would choose.
I am writing this because, despite the fear of retribution to my husband if I’m identified, I no longer feel that it is appropriate to remain silent about what goes on in this office. We’ve talked about my wanting to write this and we’ve agreed that it is important to speak up or risk people believing she is the best candidate. We talked about the fact that her campaign openly stated she would be attacked as a strong woman and how this may feed into that perspective. I hope that I can make my argument here clear enough that it’s evident I am not attacking her nor trying to take down a strong woman, but simply a person doing a poor job as an elected official. I feel she is exactly the opposite, that while she may be a strong women, she has proven her incompetence in her role as Sheriff of Santa Clara County to the detriment of the office, the people who work there and the people in the community. The men and women of Santa Clara County have given her fair chance for 16 years, which in my eyes says they are not afraid of strong women, nor of women in leadership roles.
It’s hard and it’s disappointing to write this because I believe women can succeed in law enforcement or in any field or career they choose. Sometimes in physically demanding jobs our physique may or may not require us to strive a little harder than a man, but if we can reach the bar, we can do the job.
Simply being a woman does not qualify one to do any job. I don’t care what that job is, qualifications and capabilities are required, gender is generally speaking, not a qualification. That is what “equal” is about. If I can bring the same knowledge and skills to the table, I get to play too. Not, “Hey, I’m a woman, give me my seat at the table.”
The impetus behind me writing this is noting that our sheriff held a well-publicized symposium to encourage women to enter into the law enforcement field, she has a female recruiter who appears to be assigned to nothing more than actively recruiting women into law enforcement, so much so there is the appearance of not actively recruiting male candidates and then, the reason for all this came out of the woodwork. Just days after these programs launch, Laurie Smith announces the endorsement of the National Women’s Political Caucus of Silicon Valley on her candidate pages, as if that’s what having a Sheriff’s Office is about to these women. It appears to me that this “caucus” has failed to look beyond gender and/or political blinders in their endorsement. It should take more than a symposium and a personal recruiter for women to get our vote. I understand they only support female candidates, but discretion is the better part of valor here — how about extending that to, “We only support GOOD female candidates.” I was amused to find out, seeing the Sheriff praise the “early endorsement” over Kevin Jensen, even though Kevin Jensen clearly didn’t have any opportunity for consideration. Isn’t that what we complain about men doing to us? Is turn about fair play? That is a question for someone else, but not something that we shouldn’t think about.
As a mother, I’m horrified that a women’s caucus is endorsing Laurie Smith. I’ve kept up on Sierra Lamar, Audrie Pott, the De Anza case and several other lesser known cases to the public. I’ve paid attention to what has been in the media, asked my husband questions about what happened internally and have found myself in tears at the tragedies these families have suffered and the lack of concern on the part of the Sheriff and her administration. What if it was my daughter that was sexually assaulted and they delayed the investigation? What if it was my daughter whose clothes were found by the side of the road and the police said she was probably still just a runaway and wouldn’t increase the investigation? What if it was my child in need and the sheriff was having 4 star lunches delivered to her administrative offices while kicking active investigators off the case and paying my husband and many others overtime to do nothing but sit on a corner and “be visible” for full shifts? I didn’t miss the complaints that the search was so disorganized due to 4th floor interference that deputies were sent to the same houses 4, even 5 times, to ask the same questions, missing large areas of the neighborhood because of the lack of organization. I look at my children and I cringe at what I know about these cases and pray my child never has a major crisis in Santa Clara County as long as Sheriff Smith is in charge.
As a professional, it’s beyond my understanding how this woman has maintained the support she has for as long as she has. Her incompetence has shown in her decisions, her lack of concern for the health of the office has been shown again and again in the attacks against her own staff, both private and public. Her background is so spotty she won’t even give the public full disclosure of her résumé! Why would you hire someone who refuses to tell you their full career path and what they have done specifically in each position they’ve held? Even the position she holds now? In order to apply for a new position in the office, you’re required to submit proof that you have maintained a minimum standard of CPR/First Aid/Range and a résumé — a full resume — along letters from supervisors and an interest memo that explains why you feel you have the qualifications for the position your applying for within the office. Our incumbent refuses to meet the standard she holds her employees too. But I guess, in hindsight of saying this, she has waived qualifications in the past for those that have favored her with gifts — promotions, special assignments, choice assignments. Special people, special waivers — she obviously includes herself among that special class.
As a woman, I feel that all the above shows Sheriff Smith has acted in a manner that allows some to generalize women are bad leaders. She has become part of the glass ceiling that she at one time had to bypass herself, as she likes to remind us all. She leads by fear and intimidation, she leads using the threat of destroying careers for anyone who doesn’t step in line. If you fail to meet her demands you will pay the price with anything from an assignment as far from everything as possible to facing trumped up Internal Affairs investigations. If you report one of her pets to IA, at best the investigation will sit on a captain’s or lieutenant’s desk until it’s too late to legally investigate, at worst you could be threatened with an IA investigation. These are the actions of weak leaders, and unfortunately due to prejudices, this allows some to point out women are weak leaders, because the actions of one woman. There are some very good women in Santa Clara, there may even be one or two in the office I would consider for voting for if they every chose to run. Those capable women have for the most part been minimized as a threat to our sheriff though, just like the capable men in the office. Capable people, men or women, scare our current sheriff and rather than using their abilities, she pushes them away. That’s not the leadership I want when I need the services of the Sheriff’s Office.
I guess for some women all that matters is that a woman wins. It doesn’t matter how, or if she’s qualified, or if she ultimately allows herself to become the valid representation of a poor job to those who would extend that to all women.
I hope for more. Women must make it on their merits, and yes, unfortunately women still often have to work harder in order to prove those merits. Even when we do prove ourselves, sometimes we still endure the backlash of prejudice from some. I would rather have someone working harder to prove themselves in their job, male or female, than anyone skating on a non-essential contributor like gender, especially someone who has proven a willingness to abused their power of office. I would love to see a woman win, but I want to see the right woman win — one that can advance all of us, not just those of us trying to overcome the gender role cultures of the past. Laurie Smith has actually set us back in my opinion. We need better than this, whether we are men or women, led by a woman or a man, we can do better than this.
I want a safer county, a better agency and a concerned leader in law enforcement — that’s why this woman will be voting for Kevin Jensen.