A Message From the SCCCPOA President

My apologies, I don’t check email every day so I got this a bit late, but no less pertinent just days later.  We all know the sheriff and her 4th floor personnel have no qualms about short cuts. It’s part of the reason we find ourselves where we are today. They will not hesitate to step on our rights when it comes to her personal wants and desires during an investigation, right down to the point of creating her own star chamber to substantiate the outcome she wants rather than the outcome dictated by evidence. We know this. Both corrections and enforcement should take Mr. Scimeca’s advice to heart — know your rights and don’t be afraid to stand on them.

I have a bit left of the supervisors meeting to go through and was up until 1:30am trying to get it done, so hopefully I will have time to get to that this evening.


4 thoughts on “A Message From the SCCCPOA President

  1. Hey Lance,

    Rather than tell the world how “you” and the union are backing you people, how about a demonstration? I know that I am far gone from that place, and in as much as I am enjoying my retirement, I do miss it. It was not my choice to leave. That was a determination made by some mutt that never worked as an officer, and a spineless administration.

    I have heard, through the grapevine. that part of the reason I was let go, was because I am an Asshole.
    Ok, I can live with that. I was the guy that believed that folks need to be accountable for their actions. I wish I had kept a list of all the trainees that I recommended for probationary release due to NRT. Many of those went on to enjoy careers that allowed them to be TO’s in gun bearing positions, without ever working in a custody environment. (other than core training).

    Where was the union when some “officers” were denied a “STAR” by those that slept their way to the top, while others with a history of corrupt, possibly criminal behavior were blessed with that sacred symbol?

    Rumor has it, that you were denied that status symbol, but somehow, from out of nowhere, got yours. How did that happened. I truly hope that your soul was not sold.

    You and I have known each other for many years. Unfortunately it would appear that you lost your sense of direction. As the president of the union, your priority should be ALL the members. You should have been, pardon the pun, “UP HER ASS”, fighting for your members. All you have now, is the same BS that went on 27 years ago. From the outside looking in, I have to wonder, what did you “pay” for your star? I may be wrong, and God knows, I hope I am, but one has to wonder.

    Now, The almighty “Queen”, got her feathers ruffled by the actions of a few of her “Hand Picked”, and all the folks in the jails are dirt bags?

    Maybe, now is the time to back your people, and stand for what is right. Our job is a bitch! 99 out 100 people, including the street coppers. would not do it. We all know that. So, man up, and rather that tell your members that “it will all be ok”, tell that “bottled blond” to support what she has.

    You were elected, based on your reputation of being “straight up”. “Sky can be trusted, and he has our back”.

    All I ask, is that you keep that in mind.

    Gordon Taiariol


  2. Although a little long , you wrote a hell of piece . It brought back a lot of memories , some not so good . Not sure I would want to work in that situation now.I spent the last two and a half years in the courts, we were just setting up procedures for the NF trials in a basement court room , we did a lot of testing on how the prisoners would be handled when in court , but I retired before the trails started . Again I say a good piece of writing…………….adc418 retd…..


  3. A mentally ill inmate waiting for a bed in a treatment center died in custody the other day. He appeared to have died of wounds consistent with a bad beating. Three officers have been arrested. All these Officers had three years or less time on the job. These are the known facts at the moment. I do not want to speculate on the nature of the incident. That is the job of the official investigation and the trials to follow to present. Rather, I would like to try to seek answers to the question of “HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN HERE.” In the not so distant past Santa Clara County was viewed as a model for the mentally ill in custody. How did we fall so far so fast?

    To understand this we must look to the past. We must review the lessons learned. The whys and how things developed. The conditions that required solutions. In our past we can answer many of the questions of the now and find what we need to repair for the future.

    In the early 1970s Santa Clara County was beginning to reinventing itself. We were evolving from a farming agriculture ideology to a high tech ideology. As tech firms grew, so did the need for land. An early victim of this growth was the Mental Health Facility called Agnew. Programs for the mentally ill began to close in 1972. Parts of Agnew’s original campus was kept open and used exclusively for the care and treatment of persons with developmental disabilities. Agnew was labeled as an archaic facility in need of massive restructuring and retrofitting to bring up earthquake safety. This was just what was needed to close the facility and use the land to retain and attract the tech firms. Sun Microsystems would build their campus on the land. The final Agnew building would close in 1998 although many of the programs offered were discontinued much earlier. The selling off of Agnew would create a larger tax base and bring in more money for the County through both Sun’s taxes and their employees that snapped up the surrounding properties drive up home prices. Tech boomed and the growth in the tax base grew money like fruit trees that used to fill the land.

    One problem: the issue of the mentally ill was never adequately addressed. The former residents of Agnew were returned to their families, placed into halfway houses or just released to try to become a part of a changing society. All were expected to take some level of responsibility in keeping up with their medical and going to community based treatment locations. None of these locations were able to deal with any acute breaks these displaced Agnew residents may suffer. This group became lost in the quickly overwhelmed system of treatment centers that were never intended for either the volume or scope of the problem to come. With no true centralized place where acute long term solutions could be done, these individuals rapidly deteriorated. With no sanctuary to get treatment, many self-medicated. They traded their prescribed medication for street drugs and alcohol; both of which were routinely abused . With little ability to support themselves in this changing world, they began to turn to petty crimes. Many stealing just to survive. The prospect was bleak for these displaced and untreated masses.

    Their behavior impacts the communities and petty crime rises. With a new high dollar tax base demanding safe homes, the police arrest these individuals. Without the Agnew option, the limited in-patient beds quickly swell beyond capacity. With no viable option they are taken to the local Jail. The jail system quickly hits critical mass and population swells. The jail population also increased due to the separation of highly skilled tech workers and the limited options for unskilled workers that had worked the rapidly disappearing fields. A culture of haves and have nots was created and property crime rose. Jail population became so bad that many terms coined back then are still used today. The term “Roll Up Your Gear” comes from the need to triple assign bunks due to overcrowding. Inmates slept in shifts and were allowed to use a bunk for eight hour at a time. After your eight hours you rolled up your mattress property and all, gave the bunk to the next inmate to sleep and sat on your rolled up mattress. A further joke was filling up buses and driving around the County so that it appeared there were less inmates in-custody. You see inmate in transit status are “not in custody” wink-wink.

    With population out of control and all space filled to breaking, every function of the jail system suffered. Medical care: very limited. Commissary: when we can. Clean clothes: if we can find any. Sanitation: if there are any supplies left. Due process: we will get to you. Legal access: you will see your Public Defender in court. Elevator rides: early and often for trouble makes. Help for the Mentally Ill: what is that, they are just crazy. All these issues came to a head as the inmates filed legal actions. Through Batchelder inmates secure Law Library Access and Due Process (hearing procedures on disciplinary actions). With the ability to access legal texts a group of inmates lead by Irwin Branson crafted the next and most damning action. The Courts sided with the inmates and ordered humane treatment of all inmates. This would include: regular clothing and bedding exchange, Medical Care, access to sanitation items as needed, Commissary, a meaningful Classification system, reduction of inmate population to a capped number, and treatment for mentally ill inmates. The court further required the creation of modern facilities where these orders could be fulfilled. Programs were also ordered to be created so that there were options to custody. In many ways the courts ordered the jails to fill a void left by the closing of Agnew.

    Branson created the building of the New Main Jail, several additional buildings at Elmwood and the creation of many programs such as PSP and Work Furlough. The County was on the hook for the cost. Federal funding was available to build modern jails and the County jumped in and secured the money to build these new jails. The problem was there was no funding source for the bodies to staff them. The new jails were a staffing monster. As part of the requirements to gain the building funds, they had to be built in a very staff intensive manner. To further add to the staffing problem, The Branson Compliance Agreement required “enough staffing to insure ALL essential services are provided to every person in the Custody of Santa Clara County.” Not the jails: Santa Clara County. Who is Santa Clara County? That would be the Board of Supervisors. If the jails failed to provide for the needs of the inmates, each individual on the Board of Supervisors were held additionally liable. This insured that this issue was the focus of the Board’s attention. Staffing and hiring cost money.

    Los Angeles was in a similar situation and created a jail specific Deputy that only required the training to work the jail. In the future these Deputies would be provided the missing street modules before transitioning to the streets. This system would address two of Los Angeles’ concerns. Since many of the Deputies were stuck in the Jail for year before going to patrol they were trained in street tactic that became stale due to lack of use. By going through the street module prior to street assignment their skills will be fresh and relevant. Training time was cut and they were able to effectively staff their jails. Why could not Santa Clara County do the same.

    The Board of Supervisors met with then Sheriff Winter and laid out the plan. He would be able to hire hundreds of new deputies that were trained to staff these new fandangled jails. They would be paid at a lesser rate and given a different code and designation, but they would be his Deputies. They would have limited scope and function that would prevent them from being trained and poached by surrounding other departments. Seemed like a winning idea for the Department and the County until Old Bob dug in. He wanted fully functioning deputies and did not see any value on custody specific training. He wanted deputies not turn keys. He also wanted expanded specialty units and and and a helicopter. The Voice of the Board came from two females: Sally Reed and Zoe Lofgren. Old Bob had a bit of a hard time taking any orders from women. After all the jails and Law Enforcement were still the domain of the good ole boys. Sally and Zoe dug in and in ballbuster fashion called Bob’s hand. Bob dug in deeper and a pissing match began and played out in front of the County Residents. In public Bob came across as stuck in the past Sheriff unable to adapt to changing times. Sally and Zoe were able to connect with the new tech residents that now controlled the majority vote.

    Two major mistakes were made at this point. The Deputy Sheriff’s Association and Sheriff decided to split and each attack the County on dual fronts. The second they misidentified the impact the new tech residents would have on the vote. The DSA and Sheriff effectively rallied their traditional support. Sally and Zoe dangled high tech jails to the techies and cost savings to the residual Prop 13 Supporters (who had just won a major victory in freezing property taxes that were soaring as housing cost rose). In the end Sally and Zoe were able to carry a system loaded with legal questions to victory and create the DOC. The promise of doing things in a cutting edge way while saving money trumped the legalities. Many swing votes might have just tired of the pissing match.

    So with a new modern jail system being built the DOC moved forward. A director was named. Academies were begun, staff hired and trained. First problem was what to do with the deputies that could not be absorbed into the Enforcement side of the Sheriff’s department now half its size. Simple they would be given the chance to stay. This touched off a feed frenzy with the surrounding departments. They could sign fully trained POST CERTIFIED cops without having to spend a dime on their training. Many took advantage of being in essence free agents. Those that stayed had their worlds turned upside down. Administration was staffed by existing command staff. In some ways little changed other that being paid via contract by the DOC. Overtime was not only available but required as the new staff was being trained. Many worked 18 hour shifts and slept in their cars, locker room or any other place they could close their eyes. Some even slept on duty as signals were created to alert a Sgt. or above was on near. Not that they were looking to bust anyone but airs had to be maintained. The jails had to remain at the new staffing levels and the need for more staff without new bodies allowed for more than a little understanding. Deputies during this time were required to fill never ending mandatory shifts. Many became used to the shifts and the overtime pay that followed. It was not uncommon for over-time pay to be double of their base pay. Many Deputies during this time were making annual salaries within the top of all County Employees.

    Enter the SMURFS. The first new Officers were dressed in a POWDER BLUE polyester uniform top with navy pants. The existing Deputies being “contract Deputies” retained their traditional tan and green. The dual uniformed staff shined a bright light on all us new Rookies. Not only were we Rookies but we were sent out dressed in hideous blue shirts to insure everyone knew who we were. It was that first night that I heard giggling inmates point and say, “they look like fucking smurfs.” The name stuck. I also remember my first night how a senior Deputy told me the only reason I will back you is so the State Seal on your patch won’t hit the ground. I don’t like you and don’t want you here. Within a short time, it would be me who kept his patch from hitting the ground. We became friends, and I was viewed as one of the OK ones. Others were not so lucky and were constantly tested and hazed.

    Soon the new jails would open. They would be completely different from anything we had. We had dorms similar to the crowded bed areas you see on LOCK UP. These were called DORMITORY SETTINGS. They are “indirect settings” because staff was locked away from the inmates in a secure officer’s station. Other areas were old LINEAR styles. Cells in a line similar to what you would see in Alcatraz or other prisons. Now we were going to pioneer this new “DIRECT SUPERVISION” jail where the officers are locked in with 48 inmate that have their own cells. These look similar to what you see many of the Beyond Scared Straight episodes or OZ. OZ was not far off from those early days.

    Officers were assigned to the transition teams in waves. I was part of the first wave. We visited Contra Costa County who was the only other jail system in the area exploring this new jail concept. We brought back what we learned to pass on what we saw to others who were assigned after us. With the new Jail Concept came a new Classification based on what was called the VOL model. Two Sergeants were sent to observe other systems that were “behavior based.” This was a stark departure from the “RISK” based system in place since the dawn of time. The system they developed retained a Risk component, but it allowed for behavior to modify the Risk score. Two Assessment and Observation modules were created that in addition to custody officer a specially trained A&O officer documented the behavior of each inmate on custody input forms every 12 hours. Inmates housed in A&O were turned over and rehoused after about 3 days. It was during this time that any special needs of the inmates were identified. All officers assigned to the normal housing units were also trained to fill out Custody Inputs. CIs were required for every inmate by every officer each week. Good and Bad Behavior was reviewed. It was during this time that anything that was missed could be addressed. Since each inmate was assigned to a single cell. Every mark would be documented. Any damage would result in new charges. Inmate behavior changed for the better during these early days. As a check and balance, inmate that display negative behavior return to A&O and have their profile re-evaluated. Risk components like fighting or drugs gets the inmate sent directly to a more restrictive setting. The experiment was working.

    The 8th floor of the New Main Jail was dedicated to the Mentally Ill and developmentally disabled. For the first time in years Santa Clara County had an acute treatment center that can handle and treat people in great need of intervention. The 8th floor quickly becomes a National model and departments from across the Country send their staff to learn from us. The inmates are assessed and treated so that they can be rotated off of the floor and function in the General Housing Units. They would continue follow up treatment while in GP. A simple CI or Psych referral would get the inmate addition treatment or return them to the 8th floor. All new officer would get a new training module based on dealing with inmates in crisis. This included for the first time identifying suicidal inmates and other mental illnesses.

    You see when the jails were designed it was with specific parameters in mind. Check and balances were built in to ensure compliance. Space was delegated to insure all issues within the Branson Compliance Settlement. I was given the design report. Within it, it clearly stated the cells were not designed to be used as dual occupancy cells: AKA double bunking. Double bunking undermined all the anti-suicide fixtures that were inside the cell. Thus double bunking was not a designed operating mode. The report also documented items not approved by the County. One of which was the hardened steel rolling bars that were supposed to be inside the square window bars. The County believed this was an unneeded cost. An additional exterior bar was to cover the outside of each window. This was deleted by the County because the Jail would look “too much like a jail.” They also believed there was no way an inmate would be able to cut through the large interior window bars, pop out a window, squeeze thought the small opening and climb down the side of a tall exposed building without being detected In the future, they were proved wrong not once but twice. What should we learn? People unaware of the nature of the incarcerated people should not make decisions on what they can do. If there is a chance it will happen, it will happen. Perhaps not today, but some day.

    Command staff inspected each module on a weekly basis. This brought command staff down to the line level. It forced interaction. It forced command staff to relay on their own eyes to ensure all areas under their command were functioning properly. Based on their inspections, the cleanest dorms were allowed a movie, late night and a snack. These awards gave the inmates a short term goal to work to rather than sitting and figuring how to get into trouble. It also showed the inmates that by working together they could do something good. It also lifted moral since during this time command staff had to address the line staff directly. It created a feeling of being in this together.

    The system works flawlessly until population climbs. Dorm caps rise from 48 to 64. This means some cells are double bunked. This is the first attack on the integrity of the system. Inmate are no longer held responsible for cells. Branson Compliance is signed off. For the first time in years the jail are not subject to oversite. Command staff tires of inspection and inspection falls to training officers. Line is drawn between line staff and command staff. A&O units converted to General Population modules. Custody Input focus shifts to documenting only negative behavior then to a tool to remove dayroom time without an infraction (in other words due process is being undermined). Clothing is allowed to deteriorate and is exchange less to save money. Movement officers cut making it harder to ensure medical treatment. Line staff adapts to new staffing levels. The beginning of the less with more era has begun.

    Murders on the streets of Santa Clara County expose a new problem: Gangs and La Nuestra Familia. Although gangs were always know with the system, their true reach is exposed. Of the first 24 trial inmates in the first direct supervision dorm I worked, half were NF. These first inmates were chosen because they were not gang affiliated. This showed me how they can manipulate and lay low until needed. A lesson I never forgot. One of these original inmate was among those killed during the NF murder spree. It was over a girl and drugs shorted by his brother. During this time gang activity become more a norm than ever. Inmate become more sophisticated than ever and many of the checks and balances have lost relevance. Gang recruitment rises as NF gang leaders are brought into the jails. Other leaders identified and locked down. A new risk level is created: Level-5. Special orders are created to deal with them. Little max in to old Main Jail South is converted to a SHU unit. Surrounding areas are converted to level 5 use only. All areas locked down as they move. Officers are assigned and trained to deal with this new threat. SHU Officers use only code names when around these inmates due to threat of street retaliation. Courts are closed and armed officers posted on roofs during trial. Two District Attorneys found to be among those on NF hit list.

    A mentally ill inmate becomes disruptive. He lashes out and spits at staff. He is clearly “Off His Meds” and in crisis. Several officers attempt to control him and move him to the 8th floor to provide intervention. To control and disrupt his spitting an old school tactic is used. A blanket is placed over his head. This old school tactic had been used for years with no noted adverse effect. An old school, well connected, Lt. was on the scene and had every opportunity to step in and control any potential wrong doing. By all accounts everything is going by the book. Suddenly the inmate goes limp. He goes into physical distress and dies. Suddenly everyone is looking for answers and a place to place the blame. The several officers and Sgt. involved are placed on leave. The thing I will never understand is the LT. on the scene not only skated, he delivered to charges to the officers. An experience Lt. was the ranking person on the scene and he got a pass. It was his responsibility to ensure all went well. He failed in my book. Was there anything he could have done? Probably not. As said above things were going just as hundreds if not thousands of incident prior had gone. The only difference was the inmate had somehow died and the line staff involved were forever changed. The Lt. was set apart. Why?

    Reasons for the death varied. Did the blanket somehow get around the neck? Did the Officers do something? Only much later was cause determined and all the officers were returned to work. From this incident we learn the terms “Excited Delirium” and “Positional Asphyxia.” Both deadly in their own right and easily created.

    Excited Delirium is a condition that manifests as a combination of delirium, psychomotor agitation, anxiety, hallucinations, speech disturbances, disorientation, violent and bizarre behavior, insensitivity to pain, elevated body temperature, and superhuman strength. Excited delirium is sometimes called excited delirium syndrome if it results in sudden death (usually via cardiac or respiratory arrest), an outcome that is sometimes associated with the use of physical control measures, including police restraint All or nearly all of reported cases of excited delirium involve people who are in police custody or are fighting with the police. The phenomenon of excited delirium syndrome is that the body continues to dump adrenaline into the system for hour after the onset of the original episode. During this time high levels of adrenaline in a body coming to rest adversely impact any internal organs or weakness. Since a great number of these cases involve habitual drug users or mentally ill inmates who are treated with very heavy drugs it was discovered that the drugs had weakened the internal organs and blood paths. As the body tried to calm and gain equilibrium, the effect of the adrenaline in the system breaks through and destroys any compromised organ. This can also happen in the middle of the episode if the person has a compromised heart. The result: sudden death.

    Positional Asphyxia, also known as postural asphyxia, is a form of asphyxia which occurs when someone’s position prevents the person from breathing adequately. A significant number of people die suddenly during restraint by police, prison (corrections) officers and health care staff. Positional asphyxia may be a factor in some of these deaths. Positional asphyxia is a potential danger of some physical restraint techniques. People may die from positional asphyxia by simply getting themselves into a breathing-restricted position they cannot get out of, either through carelessness or as a consequence of another accident. Research has suggested that restraining a person in a face down position is likely to cause greater restriction of breathing than restraining a person face up. Multiple cases have been associated with the “hog-tie” or hobble prone restraint position.

    What did we learn from this event? Many things. First off: specially designed “spit nets” replaced the blankets. Restraint chairs were purchased to assist in controlling and moving violent individuals. Policies were made to monitor all inmates involved in situations where the body became elevated. Procedures were created to insure medical evaluation of each inmate took place after any incident. Training blocks were created so that every officer was aware as possible of potential signs of Excited Delirium. Addition training was created and provided with Positional Asphyxia in mind. We were taught and re-trained to avoid restraining people face down. If they were placed face down it was for only for a very short period of time until control was established. After all uses of force, inmates would be cleared by medical and designated for follow up evaluation at each pill call. Supervisors would be notified and report on why and what force was used were completed. We learned and grew from this event. I wonder how many of these lessons are still in place AND USED today.

    Ah, remember those harden steel rolling bars that were supposed to be inside those square tube bars in the windows? The perfect storm was brewing. With highly sophisticated gang affiliated inmate at every turn, the 4th floor, our Maximum Security Unit at the Main Jail was ripe for the picking. Several officers and the union had received information that something was up. Meetings with the County and Command staff were unsuccessful. With not solid plan discovered the thought of who could squeeze through such a small opening if they could bypass the bars. If they got that far they still had to remove the window and climb several feet down the side of a build clearly visible from the street that at the bottom every agency drove as they booked their inmates. We were arrogant in our beliefs. We were about to pay for it.

    Procedures at the time still called for the Captain to inspect all areas under their control. Remember those weekly dorm inspections where late night and movies were rewarded. This was done to take the monotony out of the real reason for the inspection: SECURITY. As the movies ended, the inspections fell to LTs., then the Sergeant and all the way down to the JTO. The JTO? Aren’t their primary duties Training? I digress, back to the perfect storm.

    Those highly sophisticated active gang members had plans. Clothing on the 4th was done differently than any other place in the jail. Inmates were given a bag with their name and identification numbers to exchange their clothing. These bags were washed and returned to the inmate. Sounds like a sound plan right? Sophisticated Active Gang Members have 24/7 to find cracks and exploit any and all weaknesses. These bags with names are washed by who? Right other inmates. Remember I said gang inmate seemed to be everywhere. They were. The bags were rarely checked because they were tied and washed as is. Opps they could be untied and retied at any point after contraband is inserted. Watch out we are about to learn another lesson.

    Most of these inmates manipulated the system to get “Special Diets.” These special diets were labeled with what? Their names. By who? Right again other inmates. See a problem? Yup these became an additional route for contraband. The last missed clue: Peter Flores lost a significant amount of weight just prior to the escape. No one took note. Like a rat, if his head could fit his body could follow. Months later he would be recapture near Reno, Nevada.

    There was a second escape from the same area to follow. This one was only unsuccessful because the inmate Jeff Gomes needed very strong glasses to correct his vision. With his glasses secure in his underwear he began his decent. With no depth perception he misjudged how high he was and fell into bushes below. He rolled out of the bushes to the feet of a sergeant who was exiting his car on his way to work. With broken ankle he tried to run but could not. I was able to talk to him after his failed attempt. I asked him what went wrong. He admitted he misjudged how high he was because he is blind without his glasses. He added he knew he was in trouble when his hair began to snap like firecrackers in wind. HE did say he learned one thing as I was holding back my laughter. He gave me a serious look and said, “Pit-bulls cannot fly.” You see his nickname was Pit-Bull.

    What did we learn? That we are vulnerable. Procedures were re-written with a methodology for a Sgt. and Officers on the floor to inspect every bar at the beginning of each shift. This is done by removing each inmate a striking each bar with a rubber mallet. The bars make a certain sound when solid and a different sound if they are compromised. The shock also knocks frees any material used to disguise the beginnings of a breech. Inmates housed on the 4th floor returned to normal clothing exchange methodology where clothing is exchanged in bulk and exchanged a piece at a time. All names were removed from diets: only type was listed. All meals inspected prior to entry into modules. Yup we learned, grew and evolved. I wonder if it is still done the EXACT same way today.

    As NF trial winds down, staffing cut again and units capped at 96. All cell double bunked. TO now take on control and floor officer duties in addition to training. TOs no longer have training as their primary duty. Training is an addition duty to regular duties. Dormitory setting triple bunked. Staffing is cut again. Officers must lock down to complete movement to essential serviced. Officers are responsible for multiple dorms welfare checks due to staffing. Programs are cut or limited due to staffing. Inmate out-time suffers due to staffing. Direct supervision dorms essentially regress into old linear style dorms. Pilot program returns CDC parole violator to Elmwood minimum camp. No Gang inmate or prior disciplinary inmate to be part of program. This is soon proved false as many prior level 4 max unit inmates show up and gang inmate from other Counties are the norm. These inmate change the dynamics of the minimum camp to reflect a prison yard. Even at the lowest security level gang politics are the norm. Weekenders were made mules for gangsters. Cartel foot soldiers known as PIASAS were identified on the minimum camp. Quickly the Piasas prove their sophistication by engineering several escapes. Board of Supervisor establish Santa Clara County as a Sanctuary County.

    Through all these trials and more, we not only survived but thrived. The Professional Compliance and Auditing Unit (PCAU) reviewed and improved policies on a regular basis. Reports were completed to document staffing, population, over-time, assaults on staff, inmate on inmate assaults, crimes in custody, escapes, suicides and attempts, and what was learned and needed by the system after any inmate death. Somehow we were able to maintain many of our programs. Through it all we were among the premier jail systems in the Nation. It was not uncommon for other departments to request copies of our policies. It was funny though that the County Board required the department to contract with ICE and the Federal Marshalls even though they made Santa Clara County a “Sanctuary City.” It brought in money that kept staffing. The 8th floor also brought in money as other Counties paid to have their acute inmates housed there. We were not only able to maintain a professional standard but we made money too.

    Sheriff regains full control of the jail system. Sheriff promises to cut 7-10 million from the prior jail budget. Full scale California Department of Correction CONVICTS return to the County Jail system. These convict bring with them additional security concerns and long term commitments. Population increases. Squad Meetings cut. Areas only fully staffed during “CRITICAL PERIODS.” Aren’t jails “critical” by their very nature 24/7? PCAU cut, effectively ending oversight and Policy review. New staffing levels limit staff interaction. Single officer now responsible for welfare checks that were done by several officers in the past. TOs cannot complete truly effective training. Not much more than completing checklist of essential functions. Day to day training more peer to peer. TOs no longer sent to training classes before they train. Tuition reimbursement cut.

    With no Squad time: No short training modules. No alerts of system wide incidents. No peer discussion of problem inmates or concerns. No forum to pass down and discuss any problem or issue. Line Staff is effectively cut off and left to fend for itself. A Culture of survive not thrive has been created. In this type of culture, you cannot blame experienced officers for getting out at their first chance. The department’s liability is squarely on their backs. The management style has shifted to a fear, intimidation, cover-up, and retaliation model. Meaningful training has been undermined by staffing. JTOs are no longer able to observe their charges long enough to see the red flags. Training is a check off list of functions that will be used against the trainee later to show they should have known better. No experience is passed on in this type of training module. It is little wonder the three involved in this incident all come from a time after the squad meeting has been cut and training undermined. Any ability to learn effective methods have been cut away. It is still a matter of WHEN more of these incidents happen not if. It is a sad state of affairs that has allowed a once proud model system to decline to its current state. We were once a respected model of efficiency, the envy and model for other systems across the Nation. Now much is hidden. Fear, Intimidation, Cover-up and Retaliation is the cultural norm and Leadership Model. Every Board of Supervisor has failed the people of Santa Clara County because they have stood by and watched this happen. They know the comprehensive reports on every critical category that they were supplied under the former system are no longer part of the current system. The current system lacks the oversight PCAU provided on every Jail incident. The BUCK starts and stops with the Board of Supervisors: so must the liability follow.

    What have we learned? Staffing works! Training works! Programs work! Out Time Works! All have been cut. GOOD LUCK!

    What can we do? Re-establish the PCAU, past practices and values would be a start.

    In a dream world a facility whose primary function is dealing with mentally challenged inmates would be created. This could be built on land in the South County that has long be rumored to be the site of a new minimum jail. It should include training facilities and programs that would help this group of people build needed skills to function is an ever changing community. It would not only solve many of our issues, but though contracts with other Counties and agencies would bring in money. You would have to establish A&O unit to insure the system is not manipulated by sophisticated inmates. Officers that work the units would have to have training to understand and ID these inmates and the challenges the present.

    A plan for building a new jail in the place of the old Main Jail South has been floated. Move ahead with the project. Finish the Original Elmwood Master plan. Build the M-8 type buildings in that would complete the circle and remove the old death traps in current use.

    Only bold moves with a progressive and proactive plan will change the path we are on. In any event we need to brace for more growing pains as it gets worse before it gets better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rick,
      Outstanding historical perspective and bold honest perspective. I applaud your effort. I only hope others with the duty, responsibility and willingness to make changes read this insightful piece. As Santayna is credited with say, “those you cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

      Thanks Rick

      Mike Lombardo (DOC Captain-retired)


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