It’s Time for Another

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During the election the CPOA and the DSA both voted to endorse Sheriff Smith’s opponent, Kevin Jensen. The DSA doubled down on that vote later with a specific No Confidence vote against the sheriff to let the public know they were serious.

It’s time for another vote of No Confidence. Time to reiterate to the public and the Board of Supervisors who chose to ignore that vote that the Sheriff’s idea of law enforcement remains a risky prospect for us all. While the vote was timed to make an impact, it was not done simply as an election “stunt”, but as a real attempt to make the public aware that serious problems exist. I guess we unfortunately needed to reach this point to get the attention of people.

The DSA released a laundry list of issues at the time of the vote which they were concerned about regarding the sheriff and how she was administering the office. None of them have been addressed, and some have gotten even more unsettling in their commonality.

Unfortunately much of the media chose to mock those concerns, most didn’t even cover the fact that there was a vote of no confidence on the sheriff. They echoed the sheriff’s claim of “Keystone Cops” though. One outlet stated “the only people complaining about the sheriff are the deputies,” as if the people who worked for the sheriff day to day would actually not know what basic policy and procedure involved in their own industry and whether or not their boss was following them and what kind of leader she actually is. Instead the media ran to get quotes from her campaign staff comparing deputies to “Vladimir Putin.” Because, here, that constitute real news. No one is laughing now though, are they?

Never once during the election did the media attempt truly examine the concerns of the deputies. At best they were mentioned, at worst they were mocked. A total evacuation of the concept of professionalism. It was as if the “journalists” garnering political favors from the people they’re supposed to be our watchdogs over some how gave them the only perspective of what was happening that they needed.

And now there is what many feel was the avoidable death of Michael Tyree in one of the environments the CPOA and DSA tried to tell the public was, to be kind, less than ideal for the safety of them, inmates, and the public at large.

We continue to see the lack of concern regarding investigations when it benefits the sheriff — for example the case where a deputy was hit by a citizen who then fled the scene. A suspect has been identified, but after more than 3 weeks, it appears the sheriff feels her political favors lie with the citizen over her injured deputy. Yet she’s so quick to file charges on three of her own after an investigation that didn’t even span a week. After deputies, concerned an investigation not made public would be swept under the carpet as so many other incidents have been, made sure it went public. You didn’t see anywhere near this level of concern from our sheriff or the media when a correctional deputy was attacked and sent to the hospital when an inmate made an attempt on the correctional deputy’s life. It would have shed light on security failures and we can’t have that. It constituted a blip on the map, a mention by one media source, mostly in passing. This time the security failures take a back seat to the sheriff publicly being seen as the leader of this investigation, if not the leader of the office, despite the fact she’s ignored it for years.

The CPOA’s complaints mirrored the DSA’s in their votes — a lack of concern for a safe environment, minimizing training, ignoring staffing needs, and more — all issues that constitute components in this case. Other issues directly involved include extremely limited supervision in the entire jail due to the way she has cut staffing, no direct senior supervision for deputies with limited experience due to no policy and allowing this practice, no recordings that can confirm details — only who was or was not on the dorm at what time. All avoidable circumstances. Every. Last. One.

And here’s one I haven’t mentioned in the past — radio traffic is not recorded in the jails. It is logged in a book. Whatever is put in the log is done so based on trust and memory. You know when you hear that 911 call on the news? Or the media plays radio traffic from a police chase? That does not exist in the jails. Deputies document by hand in a log book, sergeants then sign off on the logs, with no means to verify. That is the extent of understanding what may or may not have been said that night over the radio.

Cameras are no better, only a single camera in the hallway to show who enters and leaves the dorm. No idea what happens in the dorm or around cells as there are no cameras in the different modules showing the common areas or cell doors. Who may or may not have been in the cell, and if all inmates were properly held in their cells at all times. That’s right, no cameras, no audio recording of radio traffic. Nothing in the way of standard evidence to vindicate or incriminate. The say so of three deputies in question, inmates who have varied mental illnesses, gang members who may have an interest in seeing deputies go to prison. If you’re looking for bias, there’s no lack of it in any of those sources. The lack of common sense is now shedding its light on the inadequacies of standard equipment needs, video cameras in the building.

And now we have the sheriff’s supporters attempting to call her a hero on the various media comment sections… and “trustworthy sources” like the Mercury News attempting to say her rush to indict constitutes admirable professionalism. The sheriffs actions were self preservation, not professionalism.

Let’s talk about professionalism for a moment and her press conference. Telling the public how proud she is to wear her uniform. In the many years I’ve know the sheriff, I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen her in uniform. We see her in uniform to indict her own, but if we look back — the Sierra Lamar press conferences, was she ever seen in uniform? No. Metcalf Power Station Terrorist attack? No. LeHigh Cement Plant shooting? No. To just name a few, but if we look we can even find more. We see a self serving sheriff wear her uniform “proudly” only when it suits her personal and political needs. In this case, to prove, despite her lack of concern for day to day operations, her lack of concern for a deputy who was the victim of a crime, the failure to understand she should actually appear at the office on occasion, that she’s more proud of her uniform than anyone else so we should believe she had no part in this systemic failure that culminated in a death.

The sheriff claimed to be proud of the role of law enforcement and that she was a part of it. Yet stood and eviscerated 3 deputies in a scathing indictment designed to create bias and opinion based on only a preliminary investigation. Raw emotion was laid out as red meat to reduce the opportunity to look at what she’s done to create the environment that led to this failure. Law enforcement does not determine guilt or innocence. The public has frequently accused law enforcement of convicting people — we don’t convict, we act based on the law, collective evidence, determine probability and allow the judges and juries to determine who does and does not go to jail. Sheriff, I expect that lack of understanding from those who don’t engage with our system daily — I expect someone in your position to know better. The sheriff doesn’t even get to decide if charges are to be filed. We learned that when she screwed up the evidence collection with her financial concerns during the DeAnza rape case, didn’t we? No OT could be used to call-out detectives or CSI. The penny was more important than the conviction. Unless she’s in the spotlight, then open the purse and pour out the coins.

The Sheriff’s disgust, while it may be a personal fact, is not a fact of the case. Her public statement was an argument of bias that only indicates the potential of an unfair process to anyone looking at this reasonably, without emotion, from the perspective of the law. She chose, with her statement, to back the current atmosphere of “all cops are wrong” — that a person under investigation, not even yet under indictment was already guilty — that cops deserve no presumption of innocence. If she gives her deputies no presumption, what do you think she bases her presumptions on for others? Perhaps she presumes the person who hit the deputy and ran away was innocent and therefore doesn’t need to face the justice system? Her behavior may be given a pass, but it makes everyone wearing our uniform look that much less trustworthy. It makes her people trust her that much less, as well. Her statement would have been far more appropriate post-conviction, not pre-indictment, if it reaching that point. If they’re convicted, she would be completely entitled in making those statements.

Yes, if these three men committed this act, we should all be disgusted. And as law enforcement professionals, if they are the most likely suspects, we all want to see them stand trial — and get a fair trial. Because that is how our system works — for everyone. It is not driven by a sheriff’s disgust, but by the review of facts by unbiased parties, of which she proved herself not capable of being. If you bring her behavior down a few levels to her management of the office — those she doesn’t like can and will be convicted based on her opinion. Sometimes it won’t even matter if the investigation clears them. She has her own star chamber if that were to happen. That’s the personality she shared in her press conference.

The sheriff’s stuttering, her painfully trying to read statements from a TelePrompTer, not even able to speak to her own actions in the process as she read, was embarrassing. That people were again taking her alligator tears for “sympathy and empathy” rather than the panic and self-pity was disheartening — did anyone other than me watch the Mercury interview?

While the sheriff spoke about Mr. Tyree, and how all people, to include those incarcerated, regardless of why, have value and loved ones, it would have behooved her to remember that also applies to her three deputies, whom she hired. Afford them the respect you afforded all the inmates in your jail in that statement. Hypocrisy looks good on no-one, especially when wearing a uniform that carries responsibility.

The sheriff blithely skimmed over her role while condemning the deputies during her press conference. How did 3 men with barely enough experience to make it off their probationary time end up on a Protective Custody floor that should mandate experienced deputies? How did they end up there with virtually no supervision and why does the sheriff believe these facts don’t directly reflect on her policies and lack of engagement in how things work in her office. I understand her failure to mention the lack of policy to enforce the need for a supervisor to be present when searching cells. Making it optional puts the blame on everyone else when the rubber meets the road and accountability becomes an issue. Having and practicing these policies alone may have prevented this incident. It also may not have prevented it, but the likelihood of events like this happening under strong policy and oversight have repeatedly been shown to be reduced.

I found it unfortunately amusing that the sheriff felt the need to specifically state the deputies did not receive special treatment. We know why she felt compelled to say that, as she and several of her higher ranked administrators have been habitual offenders regarding who gets treated how in the jails, put in dorms that may risk their safety, or if their friends are to get special behind the scene tours personnally, by the sheriff, as they’re whisked through the process for their convenience. Most law enforcement leaders would address it because they wanted to know all was equal regardless of who you are — we already know that’s not true in Sheriff Smith’s jails.

Unfortunately it’s going to be a bit of an uphill battle for Mr. Rosen. No video to confirm all inmates were safely in their cells at all times. No audio to verify any conversations held — that’s right, again, despite the technology being near ancient, radio traffic is not recorded in our jails. It’s done manually in a log book, filled out by deputies and “verified” by signature of a sergeant who likely was not present to determine many of the actions in the log. The deputies can claim evidence contamination happened during the time they attempted to revive Mr. Tyree. There is a lot of room to build doubt, some of the reasons not even yet know to the public, but if the attorneys do their job, the public will become aware of just how shoddy these jails really are, regardless of guilt.

The sheriff has put herself in a hell of a position with her lack of concern about technology, systems and policies. She’s thrived on not putting policy in writing because then it can change at whim. Not having strong accountability practices so those she likes can slide under the radar and those she doesn’t like can be subject to on-going personal vendettas may backfire for her this time. But now, what she can’t escape is that she had 3 newer deputies who seemed to not have a clear understanding of policy because lack of policy, training and oversight, that ended up on the floor with a dead inmate with little in the way of verifiable records of conversations or actions.

As for her call to the FBI to review procedures and protocols — will they issue a public report? Are they investigating as an official role of the DoJ? If they make recommendations is she obligated to implement them or just make a bunch of noise and then expect the media to never follow up in their usual fashion? Does she feel processes and procedures are so out of place and she and her administrators so incapable of improving upon them with their experience and knowledge that she felt she needed to call in the FBI first thing rather than last thing? The lack of self-confidence that shows in her decades of experience is unsettling. I suspect though, she knows exactly the sad state of affairs she’s created and realizes that could result in the DoJ determining a need to examine her more closely and she’s trying to head that off at the pass. Finally, she does something proactive — but only to benefit herself for the cameras. Let’s hope she doesn’t succeed and a real investigation is conducted.

The sheriff standing in public and talking about the moral compass of others even as she continues to run so many areas of the office based on personal likes and dislikes rather than professional standards, is almost humorous if it wasn’t so dangerous. So much is done to personally benefit her and assuage this inexplicable hate she has for so many of her deputies that she frequently expresses to people. She focuses on who she wants to punish and reward rather than on using the ability and qualifications of personnel, regardless of personal feelings. How could these rookies not have been clear in their understanding they can do whatever they like with one caveat — don’t embarrass the sheriff or try to look like you know something that her and her favorites don’t know.

I am glad she’s at least claiming to commit to the necessary changes to prevent another such event. I have to ask though, as the members of your department have continually reached out for years now with these issues — why did it have to take the death of Mr. Tyree, an inmate, to get her to commit to those improvements? Why was her personnel asking over and over, saying that something was going to happen that we could prevent, not enough? Why does she have such an ingrained distrust of those who work for her and how does she believe she is an effective leader when she refuse to respond to concerns internally before they result in tragedy?

I’ve heard she’s committed to finding funding for cameras. Great. Seriously, I mean that. I’ve also heard she chose to increase staffing by 20 people per shift, but only as a stop gap measure so if there were any inquiries regarding staffing she could show a higher number on duty. Unfortunately this move is (at least for now) more in the fashion in which she usually makes commitments — not committed to paper and only to extend over a 2 week period and strictly done by word of mouth in the hopes she can drop it later. If this tactic doesn’t work will John Hirokawa later be made to take the fall for the staffing decisions as well? Yes, I noted how the guy the sheriff would only put in charge of inmate services, not custody issues, was launched in front of the media to take “personal responsibility.” Another proud manipulation on the sheriff’s part. Congratulations. I’ll be curious as to whom in the jails will take the ultimate responsibility for being the “man on the ground” so to speak, blamed for the sheriff’s refusal to address problems. What convenient timing that has resulted in. And fixes, it’s a concern because so many of us know how the sheriff likes band aids — the Medical Examiners office…the academy… the firing range with a “Hogan’s Alley” that has been under construction for over 10 years. I heard rumors the sheriff has cut services to other agencies using the range. Is this really true? (But that is another blog)

We know when the sheriff truly commits to something, she will extend herself in the attempt to get it done. New SUVs for the entire command staff — and herself, after the election of course, is one example. Pity she won’t put that effort into so many other things needed by both enforcement and corrections — cameras (jails and body), modern computer systems, report writing programs that function, something that might reach slightly above POST minimum training. I expect she’ll manage to manipulate this situation into getting that 3rd Asst. Sheriff that really isn’t needed and then claim there’s not enough money for the structural needs. That’s okay though, we can all pretend will whatever yes-man/woman she promoted to that position will actually give a damn and attempt to resolve the issues.

I’ve heard there are attempts to improve the academies by re-establishing instruction she cut, much from what I’m being told because you didn’t want to let anyone you dislike teach — that’s a reward! I don’t care what a leader’s personal relationship with each individual is. In a professional environment personalities are nearly irrelevant if a person does their job and can work within the environment. As a professional, the sheriff should make decisions based on needs and an individual’s capabilities. Her personal feelings for an individual should never be a part of the consideration, especially to the detriment of the office and future generations of law enforcement as her academy provides instruction for many agencies.

In regards to Paula Canny, I must say I am truly impressed that the sheriff was able to manipulate an attorney whose profession it is to address these issues into ignoring ongoing, systemic failures and pretend that somehow this kind of incident generally happens in a vacuum and imply it doesn’t bear further scrutiny. I don’t know how the sheriff managed, but damn, that accomplishment was impressive. Shameful, but impressive.

And finally today, appearing in uniform, to watch 3 of her deputies be arraigned… why? Another statement that she had nothing to do with this and attempt to assauge the guilt I hope she’s feeling for her role in creating an environment that allowed this? To convince the public that her dedication to truth and justice is unmatched as long as they’re looking? Or to be sure no one said anything negative about her responsibility for what’s happening in her office. It’s shameful how we have a sheriff more worried about promoting her image today at a hearing rather than beginning the arduous job of figuring out just how negligent she has been and what needs to be done to change the result of that negligence.

Step down, sheriff. How this county doesn’t conduct a recall on you is beyond my comprehension. Of course I am still amazed there are that many voters who fell for your act and re-elected you, too. Step down. Please don’t make us wait until the deputies have given up on ever seeing a professional administration and we turn into San Jose.

Step down.

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