Institutional Oppression

With a story I’ve been working on that expands on this concept and the number of people who have come to me in regards to the actions of certain people being told that “when the sheriff wins” people who supported Kevin will be actively sought and punished for their disloyalty.  We’ve hit on this subject over and over, but now is good time to revisit exactly how long the deputies have been trying to work in an increasingly stifling environment while the administration actively becomes more aggressive towards them and towards the idea of self-servicing politicking over affective policing.

We’ve now seen for ourselves our incumbent tell us about how they have an extreme disciplinary environment, suspending, firing or otherwise punishing at least one person a week according to the information she provided.  We’ve seen how she states this has created an adversarial environment within her office that has resulted, in her mind, in a coup against her because she “fires people.” 

I have to ask you… if you have to discipline 15% of your office in a year — don’t you think something else might be wrong?  If this many disciplines are necessary, what is the root cause of so many personnel issues — lack of leadership?  poor hiring practices?   Does it seem realistic to believe that the best forward moving decision here is simply more discipline for those who failed to be loyal?  If failure to be “loyal” is a disciplinary problem, perhaps some of those 52 disciplines should be better reviewed by unbiased parties. 

Discipline is an important part of any public safety agency, in all it’s definitions.  However, if you have a significant focus on discipline, it would make sense to examine exactly why — a fact-finding mission the sheriff hasn’t even seemed to have cross her professional horizon at this point.

Below blog was originally posted October 2013

Breaking the cycle of abuse in any situation is difficult.  All you have to do is look at any family that is dealing with a domestic violence situation to understand the depth these types of problems.  The first step in changing a dysfunctional environment is recognizing the problem — in this case Institutionalized Oppression:

“Institutional Oppression is the systematic mistreatment of people within a social
identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on
the person’s membership in the social identity group…

Institutional Oppression creates a system of invisible barriers limiting people based on their
membership in unfavored social identity groups. The barriers are only invisible to those
“seemingly” unaffected by it.

The practice of institutionalized oppression is based on the belief in inherent superiority or
inferiority. Institutionalized oppression is a matter of result regardless of intent.”

There is also Interpersonal Oppression at play here:

The idea that one group is better than another and has the right to control the other,
which gets structured into institutions, gives permission and reinforcement for individual
members of the dominant group to personally disrespect or mistreat individuals in the
oppressed group…Most people in the dominant group are not consciously oppressive. They have
internalized the negative messages about other groups, and consider their attitudes towards
the other group quite normal.

The sheriff’s office has been subject to Institutionalize Oppression for years.  This dysfunction is openly embraced on the fourth floor and has been for years as evidenced by these pictures.

zink1a zink2

What you’re seeing here are pictures snapped of then Commander Lindley Zink’s office, circa 2006 provided to me by a deputy who was shell-shocked to see these dolls openly displayed.  If you do a search on these “dolls” openly exhibited in the office of the 3rd in command at that time, you will find these are called “Time Out Dolls” or “Punishment Dolls.”  This is an office that the Sheriff walked by every day, likely also entered it nearly every day.

Clearly people on the 4th floor as far back as 7 years ago thought the psychology of openly threatening those of lower ranks was a valid and acceptable tool in eliciting cooperation in their actions and demands.  This is a continuing trend and often falls down the ranks from Captains to Lieutenants, to Lieutenants down to Sergeants…. if you just do what you’re told, if you just keep quiet, if you just do this little thing, the rewards will be great — promotions, choice assignments, a blind eye turned to your own increasing indiscretions and more.

The lack of respect for Lieutenants and above has grown as the realization has spread, the only way to be promoted above Sergeant is to have proven you will sell your soul and that you will do everything in your power to protect those who bought it from you.  The most recent result of that disrespect is an increasing number of qualified deputies and sergeants who refuse to even consider the idea of promoting further with this office, unwilling to drown their ethics in a shallow tub by putting their foot on the neck of their subordinates as required.  So now the office not only is suffering from the dysfunction of institutionalized oppression, but from “brain drain” as well.

The cycle of abuse in this office can be broken.  It can be broken by electing a new sheriff who recognizes the problem and is offended by it rather than a part of it.  You can support Kevin Jensen in the election and you can espouse the positive changes that he promotes in his own work.  You can break the cycle by refusing to be a part of it — do not participate in creating an inferior class within the office.  Do not participate in the denigration we saw in a letter written by a Captain, do not participate in extortion tactics as seen by the Sheriff directed at a retiree, do not stand silently as the “chosen” act out inappropriately, do not let inappropriate use of taxpayer-funded equipment go unnoticed and unrecorded.   I will be posting an example of what I am talking about here in the very near future for any of those who may not understand what I’m referring too.

This is your office, your work place.  You spend a significant part of your life here and while you may not have a lot of control over what others do, you certainly have control over your contribution to what that office is to those around you.  Are you a part of the problem?  Are you allowing the problem to continue through complicity?  Or are you an active part of trying to make your office the kind of place that others will flock to as the best agency to work for in the area?

Support Kevin Jensen, educate yourself about your DSA nominees and vote, walk into the office every day with the intent to lift others up rather than knock them down.  Have the audacity to resolve problems rather than slink away from them or use them to contribute to the institutionalize oppression.  If you’ve been part of the system, walk away from it now, it’s never to late to change your behavior and begin to earn respect for being fair and honest rather than demand it through fear and oppression.


One thought on “Institutional Oppression

  1. I remember those when visiting the fourth floor for different case briefings. Always gave me the willies waiting for one to move.


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