Leadership and How the Sheriff’s Office Doesn’t Have Any

Leadership means a lot of things. It means “the buck stops here”; it means someone is willing to make a decision. It means someone is willing to take responsibility. To give those that follow confidence in going forward, even when the decisions might sometimes be wrong. In creating a trust that there will always be an effort to do the right thing for the right reasons. No man or woman left behind. Leadership means taking time to hear all the options, even from people you don’t like. It means being professional and understanding that while you may not personally like everyone who works for you, it’s not about personal relationships as much as it is about the success of the effort of the whole and the capability of the people to get that job done.

Increasingly I’m hearing how much worse the leadership in this office has gotten. The top person, our illustrious Sheriff Smith, (when exactly does she get sworn back into office again? Is it a secret?), appears to be almost completely absent from the office.  I’ve been told by 4 people in the past month that they’re not even sure she’s been in the office more than once or twice in the past weeks.  We know her absenteeism is now a long term problem, extending all the way back before Thanksgiving 2013.

The lack of respect for the capabilities of the leadership is so deep now that it has been suggested the name of the 4th floor be changed from the “Crystal Palace” to the “Black Hole” because information, requests, etc. that go in rarely seem to manage to make their way back out in the form of a decision.  People are actually taunted and laughed at when they try to follow up or address members of the fourth floor on new issues.  From the descriptions I’ve heard, it’s like dealing with the 3rd grade bullies on the playground.

I’ve been told from a number of sources that they believe the Sheriff’s Assistant Sheriffs and Undersheriff are either not allowed or trusted to make any decisions, or appear to be refusing to make decisions either on their own or at the sheriff’s direction for some reason. Several people have been hanging on, in a couple of cases for months, waiting to hear something — anything — from the fourth floor in regards to an actual decision so the deputies can take care of business.

Usually the only thing that comes down from the 4th floor is utter disdain. Several people on the fourth floor are becoming increasingly known for their walk-by insults and games intended to embarrass their subordinates. The idea of respect, and the administration earning it isn’t even a consideration – they clearly don’t expect to be respected and they certainly have no intention of respecting anyone who isn’t part of their little club.

The DSA has been in negotiations now for months, trying to understand why the CPOA has sergeants making more, with fewer qualifications in law enforcement than enforcement sergeants; why the CPOA is getting a significantly larger night differential, and the majority of what the county has offered the DSA are insults and take aways — pay cuts, benefit cuts, etc. — after YEARS — over a DECADE of deputies and the DSA doing everything they can to help the county through the tough times.  It increasingly appears the county and the Sheriff are handing things to the CPOA in an effort to create frustration on the part of the DSA and an attempt to further destroy the relationship between members of the two organizations.  That’s leadership… divide and conquer… but the sheriff doesn’t seem to realize, that’s what you’re supposed to do to your enemies, not your own troops.

It gets better.  Rumors coming to me from some new sources in the county offices is there may be an effort to derail negotiations because the sheriff has ordered her county shills to demand and get an apology for the election before engaging any real negotiations with the DSA. They’ve also mentioned that the Sheriff’s Office personnel who represent the sheriff and sit in on these negotiations have made efforts to disrupt and interfere. Professionalism seems to run away from nearly every elected office in this county these days if this is true.  So much for “we have a lot of work to do” in repairing relationships.

Another county source indicates that there are some officials at the county level who appear to have a growing concern regarding the lack of follow through by the sheriff’s administration regarding special projects. That there have been incidents where the Sheriff’s office involvement was lacking or even absent, indicating a lack of interest in or concern for public safety issues brought to the table by the county or public. Rather ungrateful of the Sheriff to discard the county  on their pet issues after all the help they gave her during the election to hide her inadequacies from the public.

Internally, the morale at the office is crushing. More and more deputies are finding it harder and harder to bother with anything that will require any leadership decision knowing they’ll be left hanging in limbo; it’s becoming easier and easier to look around at new offices where respect, integrity and honesty actually mean something. The administration appears to believe despite two no confidence votes they have still failed to address or even acknowledge, negotiations that are increasingly rumored to be intended to abuse the deputies rather than professionally negotiate, and other issues, that there is no morale issue in the office that needs to be addressed by the administration.

All I have to say is this is what the voters chose, deputies. If you’re not liking what you’re seeing, don’t expect it to change any time soon. The people who can help change it just don’t care that the work environment isn’t conducive to you doing a good job — in some cases even doing a job at all. They know that they hired implicit professionals who love doing the jobs they do and want to do the best they can. They rely on that. That your professionalism will overcome their complete lack of disregard and their own lack of professionalism.

You want a career in law enforcement that you can be proud of — you probably want to start looking elsewhere now.

It’s already been made clear the Sheriff’s office recruiting is falling, with a significant number of people washing out of the academy according to the DSA; the sheriff considers this failure such an accomplishment that she’s promoted a lieutenant out of the recruiting ranks.  Success at it’s finest in this office. With our research, we can only determine that this promotion was not based on qualifications, but solely on political exchange, a concern addressed repeatedly during the elections. The inability to draw a class without a significant washout rate is just an early sign that the best and brightest are starting to figure out that this is not the office to apply for. Nearly half the current class is gone according to the DSA, the other half is smart enough they’re going to figure out quickly that they are in a “training ground” agency and be looking for something better pretty quickly if things don’t change.  Things especially began looking bad for these new recruits sticking to the office when the county fighting wage theft has now been found to be refusing to pay their recruits overtime while every other agency with recruits in the academy is paying overtime.  A NLRB requirement.  Funny how the county is against wage theft except when the sheriff is caught doing it.

One look at the management hierarchy that the Sheriff has been building is enough to make most people cringe. Sycophants and incompetents with low moral fortitude are not leaders. They are a recipe for future disaster. Eventually something will go wrong that will be in the public eye, something they won’t be able to create a cover story for; the next PG&E Metcalf attack or the next Permanente Lehigh Cement Plant active shooter, or the next Sierra Lamar, or the next incident involving a Sheriff’s Advisory Board member. This office is increasingly becoming the next potential national embarrassment… it’s just a roll of the dice and one to many bad decisions from the upper ranks, clueless to their job or any of the jobs their now subordinates do, who sold their souls and their integrity for a promotion.

It’s notable that an Assistant Sheriff retired at the end of December.  There was no announcement, official or otherwise, no “good bye” email which is something of a tradition, many of the people who considered themselves “friends” of this now retiree didn’t even know until he was out the door and over the border.  What was so different about this retirement that the sheriff didn’t even let the ranks know a change in leadership was coming?

It’s also notable that there is nary a mention of our now record-holding 5th term incumbent (finally, she has an accomplishment she can call her own) being sworn in.  Did she show up?  Does she not want to remind people she’s sheriff?  Strange, but perhaps a clue that these people know what they’re doing is not acceptable.

To be completely honest, at this point I’ve been left wondering if there is a directed effort to actually destroy this office from the inside driven by a distorted personal vendetta from the top given decisions that have been made — or not made.

I may have been silent for 6 months or so, but I have not been deaf or blind.  We’ve seen the continuing attempts to drive this office into the ground, whether intentional or misguided.  We gave the sheriff and her administration time to make the effort to keep the promise to “heal the rifts” and “get this department back on track.”  She chose not to give private credence to her public claims.  She and her administration have actively worked to deepen the rifts and to further derail the department from it’s public safety goals.

The public deserves to know that, our elected officials deserve to know that, before the problem is completely unrecoverable.  Again, personally, I suggest starting with a review of how state and federal grants are managed and grant money is spent and a forensic audit of all the SO accounts and division budgets.