Should the Grand Jury Investigate? (Updated)

(Civil Grand Jury Information added at 3:20PM)

The Sheriff’s office has a pattern of documented failures — De Anza College rape, Sierra LaMar, Audrie Pott, Joshua Klaver, Adelita Rojas-Lomeli and who knows how many more.

There are several things that tie the bad decisions on most of these cases together — the Sheriff’s direct involvement or interference with standard law enforcement procedure by Captains or above.  Mistakes like throwing away evidence, bad decisions like refusing to send detectives out in a timely manner, and sheer negligence like failing to realize you had evidence of a crime for a week thereby failing to respond in a timely manner.

Money has been put before public safety a number of times — De Anza and Metcalf come immediately to mind.

The problems are many and the pattern appears to be well established and unchanging. Looking back over the elections, the sheriff certainly has no remorse or concern over the events that have happened under her leadership.  The District Attorney, the Board of Supervisors, they all showed us that their political aspirations outweigh their concern over whether or not public safety is being appropriately addressed.  Turning to the voters failed — while the county on its own would have likely elected a new sheriff, their votes could not overcome those of San Jose area which doesn’t even rely on the sheriff’s office.  San Jose’s support likely remained strong due to an awkward political ploy and political exchange of favors with Supervisor Cortese, who promised “help” from the Sheriff’s office to supplement San Jose PD.  Cortese launched a clearly political gambit in favor of the sheriff and is now said to be involved in actually directing and controlling several operations at the sheriff’s office to his political favor since the “We Can Help You, San Jose” incident.

I know there are deputies who were assigned to these cases that, under subpoena would be relieved to finally be able to tell their side of events under oath, under protections that would prevent retribution from the administration.

We only address the cases we know about, there are many others that I’ve heard about, but haven’t had the direct sources to prove.  I’m sure the ones I’ve addressed are not the only ones.

I think the Grand Jury should question the promotion process that would allow a deputy who threw away evidence be promoted all the way up to captain and then make the decision to hold off on an investigation involving sexual assault and a death.  How a captain can send out an offensive email filled with petty attacks on deputies he had failed to mentor through his climb up the ladder who were attempting to promote; then that email suddenly disappears from email boxes and people are told it never existed.  Clearly it did, I was sent a copy of it.  Isn’t it against the law to destroy public records?  Because it’s my understanding that is what was done.

There is the admission by the sheriff to the press that she either through direct orders or complicit acceptance allowed her executive staff interfere directly with the ability of at least one captain to do his job.  There are currently reports that is happening to at least 2 other captains, perhaps more, as I write this.

The community should be demanding someone bring out the entire story behind these incidents.  That deputies should be allowed to speak freely with the protection of the law to tell the truth about how these investigations have been handled.

It is time for change — and if we have to do it with Sheriff Smith in office, so be it.  This office will not survive the implied threats that have been going on — from one of her supporters walking around telling others that if they wanted smooth contract negotiations in the coming months, they would apologize to the sheriff.

Rumor abounds that some one even brought a crown the sheriff in her office in the days after the election.  I really truly hope that is the hyperbole that comes with so many rumors, but the hubris being exhibited by some of the sheriff’s supporters sadly lends credibility to the rumor.  That is truly how little this office thinks of the leader that San Jose just forced on the county residents and their deputies.

Maybe while the Grand Jury is looking at why there seems to be a persistent pattern of investigative failures, they can take a peek at the Sheriff’s Advisory Board and let the public know what’s going on there as well.

Oh, and just for the sake of my own curiosity, if you do this and have a minute, ask who on the national level “recognized” the sheriff’s office in recent years.  That’s just one of those left over questions that I would just love to know the answer too.

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What does the Civil Grand Jury do?

(from The Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, Civil Grand Jury)

Form to File a Complaint (English)
Form to File a Complaint (Spanish)
Form to File a Complaint (Vietnamese)

The Civil Grand Jury is an investigatory body created for the protection of society and the enforcement of the law. Although the responsibilities of a juror are many and diverse, the three predominant functions include:

CIVIL WATCHDOG RESPONSIBILITIES

This is the major function of present day grand jurors, and considerable effort is devoted to these responsibilities. The Grand Jury may examine all aspects of county and city government and special districts to ensure that the best interests of Santa Clara county citizens are being served. The Grand Jury reviews and evaluates procedures, methods and systems utilized by county/city government to determine whether more efficient and economical programs may be employed. The Grand Jury is also authorized to:

  • Inspect and audit books, records and financial expenditures to ensure that public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent.
  • Inspect financial records of over 25 special districts in Santa Clara County.
  • Inquire into the conditions of jails and detention centers.
  • Inquire into charges of willful misconduct in office by public officials or employees.

Most Grand Jury “watchdog” findings are contained in reports describing problems encountered and making recommendations for solutions. During its term, the Grand Jury may issue final reports on the operations of Santa Clara County government. The County Board of Supervisors must comment upon the Grand Jury’s recommendations.

CITIZEN COMPLAINTS

As part of the civil function, the Grand Jury receives letters from citizens alleging mistreatment by officials, suspicions of misconduct, or governmental inefficiencies. Complaints received from citizens are acknowledged and investigated for their validity. Such complaints are kept confidential. If the situation warrants, and corrective action is under the jurisdiction of the Grand Jury, appropriate action is taken.

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3 thoughts on “Should the Grand Jury Investigate? (Updated)

  1. Little off topic, but I want to congratulate Sgt. Powers on his LT promotion. Truely surprised the Sheriff actually gave it to the person who deserved it, and not the two appliCAN’Ts that didn’t.

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  2. The Grand Jury should conduct an investigation but getting them to do so, can be problematic. As you can see from their web site,http://www.scscourt.org/court_divisions/civil/cgj/grand_jury.shtml, they only produce a limited number of reports each year. The complaint has to be written to meet their criteria to have any chance. I would suggest official malfeasance and misuse of public funds.

    Some people went to the Grand Jury some years back with many of the same issues that you have written about the past year. There was a limited inquiry and no report. Also be aware that there is an attorney from County Council assigned to assist the Grand Jury. During one of the previous inquiries it was the same attorney who worked in-house for the Sheriff! Any wonder why the inquiry went nowhere? It does seem like a conflict of interest as the Grand Jury is tasked with being a watchdog over government agencies. It should be a private attorney, paid to provide this service. County Counsel has long been the enabler for the Sheriff’s bad behavior.

    All that being said, it should not be a reason for not trying. The current Grand Jury was just seated so this is the time to file the complaint before they fill up their agenda and each Grand Jury can see things differently. Maybe this year’s incarnation will do better.

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    • Or… if enough people are brave enough to file a complaint, maybe they’ll give it a go. If there is a volume of complaints, this might also make them reconsider the risks of allowing obvious biases lead the inquiry. I can dream…

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