I watched the events unfold yesterday and I have been upset on many different levels about what is happening over the past days. The fact that an inmate, Michael James Tyree, was killed on our watch. The fact that the sheriff stood and addressed a press conference admitting facts that should horrify anyone expecting professional administration of our department. It was like she wasn’t even aware the things she said were condemning her decisions as a leader. (I will address her statement in another blog post, another time. I promise this.) And watching the Mercury News and the victim’s family’s attorney pat the Sheriff on the back for doing such a great job, a woman who could have prevented this for listening to anyone who was trying to point out the flaws. It’s overwhelming.
Let’s get this out of the way first, we all appreciate that this moved quickly and didn’t drag everyone through the media for weeks. But we also understand that was only to protect one person.
Throughout this, there are few feelings that I haven’t been able to dig deep enough to really define until today.
One finally hit home watching the willingness of the sheriff to be brutally unfair to the concept of justice and a fair trial and the role of law enforcement to be the collector of fact, not the judge of those facts beyond determining reasonable evidence to recommend charges.
The sheriff all but played judge, jury and executioner today in her press conference for her people. Trust me, I am one who, if these people did this, will be happy to see their sorry selves out the door so they can no longer contribute to the destruction of our image and integrity. But you and I are not the one’s to determine that. That is for the judge, the jury and the process to decide. Today the sheriff spoke as if these men had already been convicted. That was a shameful bid for positive attention for herself at the cost of the process she claims to proudly be a part of in the same breath.
But even more so what has bothered me, but I’ve not been able to fully put my finger on until today because of something some one else said goes to the
title of this blog.
The names and other information were released to the press prior to any charges being filed. To my knowledge there was more than one person who released this information, though I have no evidence to that fact, the streams of information that pass by me, indicate that.
Given the environment law enforcement finds themselves in these days with the public, why would that happen. Was it right?
The nearest I can figure is that deputies found themselves in a paradox, much because of the history of this office and this sheriff and the personnel she hand picks, many of which were at the press conference standing behind her.
As a person sworn to uphold justice, we all stood there, digesting the situation, knowing that silence would result in yet another cover up of a serious incident. In this case, one of the most serious incidents that can happen, a death. Silence would mean the potential for an investigation swept under the carpet…again. A family from out of town wouldn’t know better. A media who didn’t know anything happened wouldn’t report on it. These three men may or may not have even lost their job in the usual silence that we offer.
It seems several people decided their personal integrity could not tolerate this being anything less than fully investigated. Internal pressure on the sheriff to do the right thing is non-existent. The people she has surrounded herself with are more interested in protecting her and themselves above all else. How the press conference was handled, surrounding her, refusing to answer even the minimum of questions, and her personal cadre escorting her out in the manner they did. All designed to prevent any unscripted moments for a leader who clearly could barely handle the scripted ones.
This office had a moment of reckoning. Stay silent and watch this place rot and fall to the ground and take every decent, hard-working individual’s reputation with it, or make sure that light of day gave this situation a fair examination?
Some chose the latter. I can’t necessarily find myself disagreeing with them given the history of our sheriff and her lack of ethics. Nothing about this situation bodes well for any of us, but allowing any part of this to be hidden looks even worse for us.
We need to focus, not on adjudicating the case against these three deputies in the public, but on how to prevent any other member of the CPOA or DSA from straying down a path they can not return from.
We need to focus on making sure that the sheriff’s failure to support ongoing training, clear policy, minimum staffing needs, and modernization of equipment doesn’t further damage us as a department, as a team, or as individuals. While she’s taking kudos for acting quickly, we need to remind people that she could have prevented this tragedy if she chose to be the effective leader she claimed she was during the election. 17 years of rotting from the inside is finally starting to show on the outside. This may be our last opportunity before this office becomes unrecoverable for a very long time.