How the Fourth House Fails Us and Supports the Sheriff

The Mercury tried to slide this article out about a half hour after NBC Bay Area News broke further details about the in custody death at the jail.

I get the race of trying to keep ahead and beat everyone to the punch, but details and facts are important — like getting the names of correct (but why even put the names out at this point)  — important stuff! Seriously. What are you, Anonymous?  The New York Post looking for Terrorists?

But what really caught my eye Tracey, was your little bow in the sheriff’s direction, trying to cast this tragedy as  a division between enforcement and corrections deputies associations.  We heard this during the election. There was always something to divert attention away from the real problem; lack of personnel, supervision and training.  Sadly, you missed the mark in that the problem is not a division between the associations, rather both associations continuing to point out the lack of proper leadership and training.

I’m sure the sheriff was thrilled at anything that will take the attention off the real reasons this happened. She would rather you discuss the perceived personal hurts and wants of a small handful of people offended by the idea of needing training than discuss the fact that the 2007 Grand Jury Report has still been ignored by her, and the media members like yourself to this very day.

“The management of Elmwood is increasingly reactive rather than proactive.  There is a lack of meaningful training and supervision that undercuts moral, dampens enthusiasm and fosters and acceptance of the status quo in handling day to day duties. –  2006-07 Grand Jury Report

Not only was the above statement true then, but continues to be true today.

The real issues that caused this problem have nothing to do with the handful of  people who feel there is a “rift”, but more so people like you who allow them to become part of the issue while ignoring bigger problems that get to the root of how behaviours were developed that ultimately allowed this death to occur.

Lack of Supervision – According to FEMA, they recommend 1 supervisor for every 3 to 7 officers, with 5 being ideal.  In Main Jail North, for example, each floor has a floor station and 3 dorms and they are generally manned by a deputy at each post (4) – lets say a dorm generally houses 50 inmates or better.  There was one supervisor on for the entire Main Jail, North. I’m sure you can do the math, but let me help just in case — 4 * 8 = 32.  Thirty-two deputies on EIGHT floors to ONE supervisor.   We already know staffing was an issue, so why hasn’t it been addressed?  Why aren’t you discussing  this?  If the supervisor for Main South called in sick, that means he was potentially supervising DOUBLE.   Do you see a problem here yet?

Staffing — staffing minimums were eliminated when the sheriff took over the jails. Ensuring officer to inmate ratios, safety concerns, programming guaranteed as basic civil rights are all thrown out the door.  If someone is sick, and you aren’t allowed to call for coverage on overtime, you simply shut the door and let the inmates sit.  For days on end sometimes.  This increases tensions, increases risks, frustrations, making for a more explosive environment.  Did you ask anything at all about either supervision or staffing of the people who attempted to attribute this to a “rift”?  In just minutes of searching using Google and the key words “main jail staffing” I found a variety of official reports to the BoS regarding staffing.  The rift maybe deeper than the shallow reporting, and that rift is pretty shallow, if you know what I mean.

Cameras — by your own media outlets reporting, the PIO states the camera in the unit where  the death occurred “probably didn’t catch anything”.  Not even officers entering or leaving the cell?  Not even the supposed cell checks after that point, of which I was told there was probably a couple?  Did you even consider the lack of video coverage an issue given how often video is released these days to exonerate people?  Hey, here’s an idea, see that link above where I took that quote from?  There’s also a statement there regarding the lack of state of the art security.  Hmmm… that tells me someone should have been asking these questions years ago — the Board of Supervisors, the media… some one.

Policy — Did it not occur to you to further question why no supervisor was present when these people were entering cells of a confrontational inmate, nor notified until after the death that there was a “confrontation”?  To ask what the policy is when dispensing meds, entering the cell of a confrontational inmate, or following up regarding any physical altercation?

History — how many use of force complaints did one of these people have? No questions about what repercussions if any? What is the policy when someone gets a complaint like that? What is the investigation process?  And how can one person have so many in such a short time and not set of all kinds of alarms going up the line?  Are they legitimate complaints?  Is there a process to re-assess and retrain a deputy if there is a potential issue?  Should there be?

Did none of this occur to you to be more important to cover in this greater picture attempt you made than a “rift”?  A rift did not cause this event to occur, did you ever consider to seriously ask the underlying question of why did this happen?

Let’s address that specifically shall we? The “rift” if you will is over the concern of many people, in both enforcement and corrections, that 16 sergeants were replaced by 12 when there was already a shortage. That alone should be concerning to anyone with any sense of the environment. That the sergeants replacing enforcement were not given training in any of the areas they were taking over — certain types of investigations and writing the crime reports.   As pointed out in the 2007 grand jury report training was “word of mouth” though I’m using this out of context, it is still true to the internal training for supervisors. But in most cases, even “word of mouth” training did not occur in the transition.  Consideing this, this should be one for the record books at this point.  Supervisory positions not being properly trained in how to investigate and file reports missing the fact that one of their deputies has alleged repeated use of force offenses – are you seeing a possible link here?  Forgive me if I find that a larger concern than a few people having hurt feelings because I said training was a necessity.

I have to say I am completely confounded that you felt the need to toss the sheriff a distraction like this rather than address any one of the above issues that are far more relevant to the situation.  “Tyree’s death has exposed serious rifts in the Sheriff’s Office…”  You think you exposed a story there, don’t you? No Tracey, the “rift” is far from “serious” other than in the minds of a few.  What has been exposed by this death though is exactly what we’ve been arguing for months upon months and your paper has been ignoring, and you still seem to have completely missed — the lack of leadership, clarity in policy, staffing, training and equipment is going to culminate into a serious disaster for someone… oh, wait…

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9 thoughts on “How the Fourth House Fails Us and Supports the Sheriff

  1. Pingback: So Many Wrongs that Need to be Righted | Casey Thomas' World

  2. Casey I feel the need to chime in here. The article is as usual very detailed and well laid out. My beef is with your response with “Carls” comment. What exactly are you referencing when you write, “Training issues that promote violence”? As I’m sure you’re fully aware…….our profession is chock full of violence. Whether it’s related to calls we are dealing with or violence directed at us. I’m sure the many tragic instances in the media can attest to that.

    Now to address “Carl”………..I’ll not address your opinion on Capt. Rodriguez cuz she can choose to address it or not. My issue is this…….What the hell do you think we face/handle/confront on a daily basis? Do you work the streets? Do you watch the news or read any sort of media? Law Enforcement is intrinsically associated with violence. Our profession does not alway call for the use of physical force, but when it does it’s vital that Deputies are trained in how to act.

    Carl…..do you know anything about the actual Red Man process or is this just what you heard? I’m assuming you went through a Red Man of your own? I went through a Red Man training in my academy and have participated numerous times as the actual Red Man during several academies. The Red Man is unbelievably vital to ALL Deputies and here’s why.

    Have you ever been in a fight? Have you ever been confronted with REAL physical violence directed at you? Have you ever been punched in your face? Have you ever been hit so hard you see stars or hear ringing? Have you ever been hit so hard you suddenly think, “Oh Shit!!”?? Have you ever faced a violent suspect who wades right through your verbal commands, control hold attempts, then your pepper spray and slams you square in your face? I have.

    What if a recruit has never experienced this type of encounter? What if as you imply, “the Red Man scenarios consisted of the Red Man physically and violently punching the recruits” never took place in the controlled environment of the academy? What if the first time any of this happened was in the field? What then Carl?

    I witnessed recruits actually turn around and shout, “Stop hitting me” as they ran away from the Red Man. WTF!!!!! The Red Man training is used to illicit the “Fight or Flight” response that naturally occurs from a physical confrontation. A Deputy MUST be able to respond with the appropriate level of force. Your overly simple definition of the Red Man program makes me think you do not in actuality know what your talking about.

    The Recruits must start off with correctly assessing the scenario. They then use verbal commands and choose what type of force is appropriate. Once the physical confrontation escalates, the recruit must continually give verbal commands, escalate & de-escalate their level of force as the situation warrants. There is constant feedback to the recruit AND the Red Man from the various defensive tactics instructors and the other safety officers in the room. The recruit then must intelligently and effectively fight off the attacker as they try and rip their gun from their holster. After that the recruit must intelligently and effectively take the person into custody and then conduct a complete and thorough search. Failure in any of these stages can & will be addressed and re-training then takes place. Out in the field Carl, you don’t get a second chance.

    I am quite appalled at your ignorant statement, “I believe this is a situation where the Sherif promotes the deputies committing battery on helpless inmates.” You then attempt to tie this isolated incident at the Jail to the training received during Red Man? Training you so obviously know little to nothing about? This statement is utterly deplorable and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    I‘ll ask you this. Shouldn’t the Department know if the Deputy they are entrusting with the authority to uphold the law is going to make smart and appropriate choices when confronted with being physically assaulted and if not then washed out of the academy? Would you propose to do away with the Red Man training simply because you feel words would work better during a violent confrontation? I’d rather know that the Deputy working alongside me has been through the Red Man process and isn’t going to physically run away from someone punching them and thereby leaving the assailant to do who knows what to who knows who.

    Oh and you’re wrong when you say the department did nothing about it. The department actually made a grievous and horrible mistake. They caved to idiotic beliefs like the ones you espouse. They actually ordered the Red Man training to be modified so the recruits would no longer be punched in the face!!!! HOLY SHIT…….are you kidding me!!

    What an unbelievable dis-service to those recruits. What’s next……not using real bullets at the range cuz someone may get hurt. Should we all just use “Finger Guns” and make the “pew-pew” sound?

    I got news for you Carl, big bad people are out there that wanna bite, punch and kick us in the face!! Some of them want to kill us!! They don’t care if you run away screaming, “Stop hitting me” They don’t care if they break your nose or your ribs. They want you dead. The specific Red Man training you reference has been addressed and appropriate changes made.

    If the Department didn’t make training as close to “real” as possible…..what the hell is the use of training?? Why do we spend time at the range, take EVOC or run through proper handcuffing and officer safety training? Don’t paint with such a broad brush especially when your knowledge on the Red Man training program is so myopic.

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    • Nate, there are several instances that exceed the detail laid out in Carl’s post. I have talked to a number of people who are both aware, and in some cases present for the incidents. No one I know or have talked to, including veteran officers and deputies, have an issue with Red Man training as it is supposed to be, but do have an issue with what happened in 2 or 3 instances in specific for very specific reasons beyond just because there was an injury. There are other training tools outside of Red Man also that I am aware of that have shown deputies inappropriate treatment of those in custody. All I can say is please wait until the details on this come out. I know you don’t know me, and it is a lot to ask to trust me that I will differentiate these specific instances and explain why they were teaching “violence” to the trainees that were present. To simply take an exchange of a couple of posts grazing the topic does not do what I am hearing justice.

      I agree, deputies need to be trained to be ready for all kinds of violence — both enforcement and corrections. I am absolutely not advocating to eliminate or “soften” the Red Man training. Please don’t believe that I am. But there is a context in which to teach that can become inappropriate, and that’s where these instances go. I don’t want to put details out there completely until I have all my ducks in a row, and certainly not in a comment box, but I would be happy to discuss this in detail in a more private venue like email with you. Please feel free to reach out if you’re comfortable with doing so.

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    • I greatly appreciate your response Nate as it confirms that you did not understand the message I was trying to convey. I also completely agree with you about making training as realistic as possible in order to prepare an officer to function effectively and safely in the field. I also do not speak from ignorance as I have over 30 years of teaching officer safety to basic police academies throughout the state. I take officer safety very seriously and am a strong advocate for properly trained officers. With that said, I am probably one of the biggest supporters of law enforcement officers and their well being. When the Red Man was introduced into the academy training, the intent was to provide the officer with confronting a passive aggressive suspect that would require the officer to respond by using their “soft” baton striking the suspect in the critical points of the body in order to gain compliance. It was never designed or intended to be a one-way boxing match where officers were being injured. If you look at all of the other trainings, like, EVOV, handcuffing, the range, none of these trainings produce serious injuries to the officer. If we really wanted to make training as realistic as possible, then maybe we should have a recruit step into a patrol vehicle and have them drive the vehicle 60 MPH into a wall so they can experience of being in a serious vehicle accident, or have the recruit shot while at the range so to experience having been shot. Punching someone’s head can cause a serious medical situation, to include death. The brain in not capable of taking on traumatic blows to the head without suffering a serious repercussion. As for punches to the rib cage, it doesn’t take much to break a rib or two and have them puncture the lungs causing them to collapse or possibly puncture the spleen which is often fatal. This type of training is extremely litigious for an organization with large payouts.

      So let’s get to my original message about the Sheriff. Because I am a huge supporter of the line staff, my message was the focus of the incompetent Sheriff and her administration. I was trying to point out that the Sheriff is someone who likes to align herself with less competent people (her administration). This provides a secure platform for her to instill the fear of God along with the intimidation factor which allows her to continue to manipulate her administrators in doing the “wrong thing” for the “wrong reason”. An organization can only grow when you have experienced and competent people at the top of the hierarchy. Without the higher level of competency, you have an organization that provides no real guidance, or support for the line staff (i.e. assigning an incompetent LT to the academy). Unfortunately, it is the line staff which suffers because the Sheriff does not care about providing adequate training to her people. The Sheriff is so self-centered that she can only focus on destroying good people because of her own insecurities.

      I know there are very good deputies within the Sheriff’s office which I have the highest level of respect for. Being a peace officer today has become even more challenging due to the many recent events which are creating a more difficult work environment for the deputy to do a good job without being sacrifice so and administrator can look good in the public eye….wonder who this fits?

      So Nate, don’t get bent out of shape from my blog…as I am totally on your side if you are not a supporter of the Sheriff. Be safe.

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    • Mr. Davis, I think you are missing the point. Training (and proper training) is but one aspect of running any department. Nobody denies the difficult and stressful job officers are faced with. The real question is the continued lack of transparency by the Sheriff’s Office and mis-management. Many know how the department really functions. This is not to say the majority of employees are not hard working and dedicated individuals doing a (often times) thankless, endless job.

      We all have seen the promotions that are not based on merit, experience, training, or tenure. All too frequently there is not a solid foundation in fundamental skills and hands-on enforcement experience or, sometimes, lack of supervisory experience before being promoted once again.

      I realize everyone has a different opinion and a different perspective, but top management and others who would be quick to agree to get ahead, need to be honest about things. Even some of the previous top staff members who are no longer employed by Sheriff’s Office, tend to agree. The ones that did speak out when employed were demoted, transferred or forced out.

      I believe if the leadership and culture at the top does not change, they are destined to repeat the same mistakes of the past.

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  3. Thanks again for a well researched and thought out view of how badly the sheriff’s department functions. I truly hope you sent this to The Mercury, and if they don’t respond, let us know! I’m sure many of your readers would be happy to forward it again to them with added comments.

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    • We have not directly forwarded this to the Mercury News. Given how many times they’ve generally tried to block me from their comments section, I don’t think they’re very receptive to anything I have to add to the conversation. I got tired of playing childish games just trying to post there. By all means, if you wish to reach out to them, or simply offer your opinion on their comments section, you are more than welcome to include a link to this blog post, or any portion of my blog you feel relevant to your comment.

      The only way we win the fight to improve our work environments is to work towards public awareness until it reaches the point of intolerable for them and they demand change. Because no one in the county offices are listening to us.

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  4. Very interesting article Casey about the Sheriff and her lack of maintaining appropriate staffing and training for her deputies. I think your point is well taken, however, I believe this is a situation where the Sherif promotes the deputies committing battery on helpless inmates. How you ask? If you look back at the first Correctional Deputy Academy which was under the command of an incompetent Lt Dalia Rodriguez. The sad part is, the Lt was made aware of the serious training issues where the recruits were being seriously injured and chose to do nothing about it. In fact, she promoted the training. What training you ask? This is the “Red Man” training that all recruits must go through. The “Red Man” training is designed to be passive aggressive, where the suspect is heavily protected in a thick padded protective suit. The suspect is to be somewhat non-compliant which forces the recruit to use their baton (soft type) against the suspect until Compliance of the suspect is accomplished. Well, and unfortunate for the recruits, the Red Man scenarios consisted of the Red Man physically and violently punching the recruits. One deputy suffered a broken nose and another was admitted to VMC with broken ribs. So, once again, the Sheriff provides absolutely no leadership for her deputies, by promoting incompetent people like now Capt Dalia Rodriguez. If one had to summarize the Sheriff’s leadership style, it would be leadership by intimidation, fear, without conscious. I think going back to training records from the academy will be telling.

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    • Carl, thank you for bringing that up. I have heard a number of training issues that promote violence and it is something we’re gathering information on now. Anyone who wants to provide information, it will be looked into, and hopefully this will be an issue that is addressed publicly as well in the very, very near future.

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