I’m not sure how many of you have noticed the quote at the top of my page that’s up for the moment. But we mean it. We are not afraid, we will not be silenced.
The drama never stops when the sheriff feels the wheels of democracy is little more than a “coup” against her. The sheriff, her administration and her political cronies, known to put themselves above the law and your rights went overboard this week in yet another desperate bid to shut people up and silence the wave of support for Kevin Jensen that is rolling out of the office onto the streets of the county.
I was contacted by several people, from both the enforcement and corrections divisions as well as someone outside either office indicating this attempt to steal the right to speak from only a segment of the county’s public employees goes all the way up the ladder, at least to John Hirokawa… who is just a step away from the big boss, Sheriff Smith.
The ensuing actions of the administration would be accurately qualified by comparing them to the very same Keystone Kops that Rich Robinson compared the deputies too earlier in this election season. Only difference, the Keystone Kops may be bumbling idiots, but they’re honest and they get their guy; the SCC SO administration just proved they were just bumbling idiots, more intent on violating the 1st amendment rights of their deputies and corrections personnel than say how they’re going to figure out where to find more deputies to send to San Jose, or what vehicles they’re sure can get them there and keep them on patrol without embarrassingly breaking down. Or other such similar REAL problems of the office. Assuming the entire plan isn’t just political smoke and mirrors created on a whim by two people, Cortese and our Sheriff, in a desperate bid to get ahead of their political competition.
I will let the rest of this story be told by the DSA board, by the letter they sent out this morning to the entire DSA body outlining the events and the results.
Dear DSA Member,
On March 9th, 2014 we sent out a message to the membership explaining the rights afforded to each of us under POBR. We did this so each member had a blueprint from which to operate during these tumultuous times, so each of you knew your DSA was serious about these rights and would do everything it could to protect them, and lastly because we understood from prior dealings with Laurie Smith and the Sheriff’s Administration she would likely violate them. That first email was foreboding.
On April 14th, 2014, an email was sent to all Sheriff’s Office employees from Captain Doty. Attached to that email was a document from county counsel and a “reminder” of how employees are to conduct political activities. The content of the letter was not new and proper in its advice of our obligations under the Government Code. This second “reminder” was sent to only Sheriff’s Office employees and no other County department.
Within a day or two of that email, Captains from both corrections and enforcement began instructing their subordinates that any political banner, poster, flyer, or bumper sticker brought onto County property was prohibited; even if attached to or inside of a privately owned vehicle. Several of our members were given direction from supervisors which inferred disciplinary action if they did not remove these items.
The Sheriff’s Office was interpreting protected free speech material inside or on a privately owned vehicle parked on County property as “posted on County property.” This interpretation is blatantly false, was entirely new, never enforced before, and was ONLY being applied at the Sheriff’s Office and in no other County department. In fact, County employees, line staff and executives, have had political bumper stickers on their cars for years.
Several members came forward and alerted us to this problem. The DSA Board took immediate action and through the efforts of our attorney put a stop to the Sheriff tromping on your 1st Amendment right to free speech. The Undersheriff can claim the email “caused confusion” but the result has the appearance of coordination among several separate divisions and infers an order from above the rank of a Captain. Actions such as these place a chilling effect on many employees at the Sheriff’s Office.
Many members saw the “reminder” email as an attempt to dissuade our continued support for Kevin Jensen; our continued efforts to bring about change in how employees are treated, the safety of our workplace, and how we serve the people of this County.
The timing of the unlawful order was also suspicious as it came just days after 70+ people stood at the steps of the Sheriff’s Office for a press conference announcing the endorsement of Kevin Jensen by Crime Victims United of California. Days after 70+ people exercised their 1st Amendment right of speech and expression in a public place.
It is disturbing that through this attempt, Laurie Smith and her agents used County resources to further her own political agenda.
When we signed up for this job and swore an oath to defend the Constitution we took that oath serious. A common tactic of dictators is to not only silence opposition but to crush it. Laurie Smith signaled her intention to do just this with a threatening letter to the DSA in June 2013; during the time the DSA was deciding on whom to endorse for Sheriff in 2014. If the Sheriff and her agents are willing to violate the rights of employees and peace officers, what else is she willing to do to get reelected? What else is Laurie Smith willing to do or has done to those who have opposing viewpoints? Do you think she will stop between the time she loses this election and Kevin Jensen takes office in January?
As we wait for the next assault, the DSA Board asks you to continue to provide excellent service to the people of this County. May the reason we serve never change. Remember, when we are at work we are expected and obligated to perform our duties of protection and the pursuit of justice. When we are on our own time we will continue to exercise our Constitutional rights provided to us.
Your efforts now to elect Kevin Jensen will ensure positive change for the future. Our failure to do everything we can in this election will ensure the continued demise of the Sheriff’s Office. As always, together we stand strong, divided we fall.
– DSA Board –
P.S. If you have additional questions or concerns about this issue, please contact a DSA Rep. We will collect and answer as many questions as we can and forward the answers to the entire membership so we can all benefit.