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…