If I didn’t know better, I would think the Mercury News was laughing all the way to the bank while helping the sheriff to unknowingly bury her professional reputation. Unfortunately, given their prior relationship, I suspect they’re all unaware they’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.
The sheriff’s ego has led us to a strange place where she is proud to announce what kind of failed leader she is and expound upon a plan so strategically off as to literally be unconstitutional and a proven way to fail to succeed in law enforcement. The sheriff that couldn’t be found a few weeks ago decided now it was time to give a few more statements. Perhaps she would have best served herself by staying in the location her PIO claimed she was unreachable.
“But the pattern may not be limited to just those three officers,” the sheriff suggested during a news conference…
The sheriff is right, due to her lack of established policy and attentive leadership, who knows what might be going on anywhere in her organization. She certainly doesn’t. When leaders fail to outline the mission, the mission tends to fail. And she’s been such a magnificent manager and leader that she completely missed there was a problem until someone died in her jails. Her statements exemplify how she’s still failing to understand her own short-comings and the impact they have throughout her agency.
But the sheriff left me in awe with what she said next, exposing her lack of knowledge in regards to the law and law enforcement: “Not only are we going to investigate each complaint we receive, we are going to approach those investigations from the assumption that the complaint is true,” Smith said. Yes, let’s assume guilt and prove innocence. As a leader, she just told us that her belief is such that “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t exist in her lexicon. Something some of us already knew, but never expected her to openly admit.
The first part of that statement begs the question, did your office have a policy of NOT investigating every complaint received before this? Can the sheriff not see that as being a part of problem? Why would anyone not investigate every complaint? They after all could possibly lead to resolving problems — be they lack of training, lack of policy or understanding policy, yes, even people who were hired and it turns out they’re not cut out for the job. Whatever the problem is, this is yet another way problems are identified and fixed, before someone ends up dead. It’s taken you 27 years in leadership to understand that all complaints need to be reviewed?
Here’s a question for the sheriff, does your office even record every complaint? I hear they don’t. I hear there is no standardized policy or procedure that can be followed to ensure complaints, internal or external, are addressed according to some of my sources. I’ve also heard because of this, quite a few complaints manage to get lost on captains desks, some because of negligence and others because favorites don’t get in trouble, they often get promoted — all much to the frustration of those who have taken these instances seriously. Fortunately for most in Sheriff Smith’s organization, it doesn’t take a death for them to want to do their job and do it as well as they are able. Unfortunately for these same deputies, the sheriff is unwilling to provide the leadership support and leaves them open to any number of pitfalls.
It’s interesting, while the sheriff is trying to make this seem as if deputies are all going rogue to the media, she continues to completely ignore what her lack of interest in doing her own job has done to this office. She’s barely been present in the office for 2 years now. She’s all but kicked her 2nd in command to the curb and minimized his role (magically re-established in the public recently to deflect blame), she’s left a 3rd in command in charge, a person that is so disliked throughout the office he is literally nicknamed after an infamous, murderous, political figure because he goes on witch hunts (some claim at the sheriff’s specific behest) to intimidate, demean, and destroy the moral of others. Little is done by anyone on the fourth floor to ensure things run smoothly — it’s all about keeping people, often very specific people, in line through fear. And while the blessed few on the fourth floor focus on those the sheriff chooses to hold a vendetta against, the rest of the office is wandering off because the leader has forgotten to trail blaze a path for them to follow.
In regards to the second half of the sheriff’s statement though. I hate to play the role of Mr. Obvious… but why the F*CK would you approach any investigation with an intentionally set bias? I have never, in any career that involves investigation, researching, divining any kind of truth at all, heard any professional recommend starting to search from an intentional bias. There are so many traps to fall into while investigating that I can’t fathom a law enforcement leader publicly recommending her investigators intentionally leap into one head first. If that’s how you teach people to investigate internally, that is also how they will investigate externally — how does the public feel about that?
Perhaps this is why the sheriff believes she didn’t need to train her new corrections sergeants to do investigations. Because she is absolutely clueless herself as to what it takes to conduct a good investigation. She’s perpetuating generational failure in her agency because she can’t acknowledge her own learning curves.
No investigator’s job is to assume any single party immediately guilty, it stands directly against the premise of our constitution and our job. Something a sheriff with 40+ years of law enforcement should know. This is how innocent people end up caught in a system that fails them. Investigations should not begin from a point that claims an understanding of facts, but from a point of something happened and to determine exactly what the facts of the event are. I hate to say it, but the fact the sheriff proposed investigation from a bias puts into question every professional conclusion she has ever reach, in my opinion.
Her presumption of guilt is yet another example of how poor a leader and law enforcement professional the sheriff really is. The sheriff’s proposed biased should set every single deputy on edge and I have little doubt will drive more than a few new recruits away from our front door. It should outrage the public that she makes such presumptions about anyone. She just made a statement that she believes the worst from every one of her people before they’ve even come in to start their job. Police notoriously get complaints that are nuisance complaints and turn out to be people trying to manipulate themselves out of their own troubles. It is all the more reason that each complaint needs to be fairly reviewed on it’s own merits from a point of neutrality. If you trust these people so little that you assume they’re guilty before even looking at any evidence, why did they make it through your hiring process?
Further down in the article, I was thrilled to hear the sheriff is adding 40 hours of CIT for the deputies. I have several questions though — is she actually extending academy by that week? Or will she be randomly cutting other training? If so, what has she deemed less than necessary in an already shortened academy? Since she has banned the majority of competent instructors because they know how to do their job and that intimidates her, who will she choose to instruct? Will they actually know what they are teaching or will the standard she showed in her understanding of investigations apply? Putting one of her pet stumps in front of a class for 40 hours and teaching the wrong thing is not going to improve a thing.
The sheriff has yet to figure out, every time she decides to attack her own people as the problem — she is their supposed LEADER. They follow her LEAD. If they’re “corrupt” it’s because she is. If they’re ineffective, it’s because she allows them to be. If they’re lacking the skills to effectively do their job — it’s because she doesn’t provide the necessary means to continually develop those skills.
All paths lead back to YOU, sheriff. When a person in your administration allegedly has a narcotics K9 alert on their office and you refuse to allow an investigation, instead letting them quietly retire — that is the example you have set. When one of your “pet” people is alleged to be providing taxpayer funded equipment to prostitutes and you chose to quietly let them resign — that is the example you set. When another in your administration is allegedly arrested in a neighboring city picking up prostitutes and you refuse to investigate and then allow that same person send out an intimidating email office wide — that is the leadership you provide. You have taught people by example, from the newest deputy all the way to the 4th floor, that it’s okay to use bias when determining on how or even whether to conduct an investigation.
Just because the sheriff appears to be functioning from a guilty conscience doesn’t give her the right to assume that her people are a mirror of her. Thankfully the majority of them aren’t. And some are simply what her failed leadership has taught them to be; they could be something better if they had a better example to follow than she has provided.
All this should come as no surprise. After all, she had no qualms about identifying her deputies as Keystone Cops during the election. She has publicly made clear how little she thinks of them as a body of people. Maybe she should have stopped while she was ahead, before exposing herself to be exactly the type of law enforcement official she was attempting to mock.
I hope the sheriff thinks about this. I hope she thinks long and hard about it before she decides to try to break the backs of her deputies in an effort to save herself. I hope rather than continuing to expose just how ineffectual she is as a leader and as a peace officer, she chooses to bear responsibility for what is starting to become a systemic breakdown and step down. It’s time to let someone else fix the problems, mend the relationships, and create the premier agency she only dreams of having, while we still can.