Is Sheriff Smith Heading for a Consent Decree?

(autocorrect! *shaking my fist*)

“Public comments are the most impractical form of political communication ever devised by good government advocates. A minute or two for NIMBYs and tin hats to spout off for any reason whatsoever.” — Rich Robinson, Sheriff Laurie Smith’s Political Adviser.

And yet here we are starting a blue ribbon commission into investigating critical needs with an undefined opportunity for anyone in the public with a grievance against a Santa Clara County deputy to spent as much time as needed airing it to the commission whose time should be focused on problems we know exist.

We don’t have to pretend we need to learn the problems. We know the jails are deficient in any number of areas. This commission isn’t supposed to be investigating individual cases. So I’m not sure why we need to spend critical time listening to complaints when they could immediately pull out the policy book (ha! Does one even exist any longer?), the training schedules, the staffing records and begin their job.

Instead we’re going to start with public comments, a methodology that even one of the purportedly respected political voices of the county, representative and good friend of the sheriff, says is a pointless waste of time and energy in regards to addressing issues. I guess when you’re paying $95,000 to pay lobbyists and spin doctors to vet every word and move, you don’t need the likes of Robinson. Or maybe Robinson has found a conscience. Or maybe he doesn’t want to sink with this ship. Who knows.

“Why though?” you ask. “Why would they do that?”

I can think of only a handful of reasons. Well-meaning idiocy. Or an intent to direct the investigation through a wall of a public white noise generated through outrage created by unfiltered public commentary about deputies, truth or myth.

Think about it. Sheriff claims there over 100 complaints against deputies just since Michael Tyree’s death. If all 100 people are incited to talk about their complaint publicly, before the commission, what happens? You have successfully changed the subject from the lack of training and policy that may have been the root cause of the death of Walter Roches to punishment of deputies who “misbehave” because someone in a public venue said so. She’s already successfully turned the subject from the cause and manner of death of Mr. Roches by releasing there was “no foul play” involved and delaying the release of information.  No one has asked, nor has a satisfactory answer been provide as to why we got Michael Tyree’s manner and cause within a few days, yet won’t know Mr. Roches’ for “weeks”.

Again, I’m not saying deputies who intentionally do wrong shouldn’t be investigated and addressed appropriately. I am saying this commission is not the venue for it. We can’t lose sight of the facts of the deaths — lack of supervision, lack of experience, lack of training, lack of policy to ensure certain standards, and the list goes on.

I can’t help but feel this effort by Cortese and Chavez is not only to protect the politicians, but to try to help the sheriff convince the FBI not to recommend a consent decree. A consent decree is a form of negotiated settlement with the Justice Department that averts a civil-rights lawsuit. The department would have to agree to implement a series of reforms under the supervision of an independent monitor.

I think they’re trying to convince the FBI that with this sham of a blue ribbon committee, they’re making an honest effort themselves. If they can draw out the process, say with the public airing of 100+ complaints, before “digging in”, and they can delay long enough to get the FBI convinced and out, they’ll never have to truly dig into the failures of the sheriff’s administrative destruction.

Unfortunately for them, I’m hearing noise that goes against that hope. Fortunately justice and a fair review may be soon upon us. The failure to appoint a truly independent commission and putting the leader of failure above the salt at the table, so to speak, will likely drive the FBI to being even more convinced independent oversight is desperately needed. Rumors say lack of sufficient records and results is causing problems for the FBI conducting their investigation. Between these three points, it shows a gross lack of commitment to improvement rather than political expedience and selfishness. These guys aren’t your average San Jose voters, they’ll figure it out.

Please don’t forget to sign the petition to have Sheriff Smith’s appointment to the blue ribbon commission revoked. Our sheriff and supervisors may not want integrity, but the deputies do.  Please help by signing and sharing.