When Getting a Participation Ribbon Means More Than Blue Ribbon Results

The more I find out, the more unbelievable this commission becomes. This is supposed to be a serious effort? The supervisors are making statements about existing policy when they’ve barely glanced at actual policy. They have a person with a “reputation for ferreting out institutional abuse”, yet some how knows nothing about jail standards, jail administration; who seems less and less to have any intent to look at the failure of the institution and it’s administration itself. Not a single person who knows how to run a jail, or understands jail administration. The open ignoring of another man’s death because it’s a problem to the storyline of Superhero Politicians.

We have a sheriff AND and undersheriff both appointed to the process that was originally to investigate how things were run in a manner that allowed these TWO incidents to happen. Yes, no matter how you spin it, Mr. Walter Roches was killed, likely by institutional failure. But I’ll come back to that. This enrages me, shoving his body under the curtain so you can narrow the storyline.

When asked why no members of the DSA, or more importantly the CPOA, were selected… we heard “no one applied.” That’s called a clue folks. Maybe it would have behooved the lot of them to approach the CPOA and the DSA about an appointment from each of their groups?  I mean there is plenty of statements implying they made the effort to reach out to LaDoris Cordell to apply to chair this — could they not handle two things at once and reach out?  At least to the CPOA? Kind of like they just decided that the sheriff and the undersheriff didn’t have to apply, the two people most at fault for the complete breakdown of structure. At least the CPOA, even a retired member could have been appointed or an an agreement to reach out to an independent individual with expertise they could both agree on. We’re talking the feet on the ground who actually understand the core issues and can provide information and maybe a voice outside of the “cops are bad, everything is their fault” echo chamber that’s been built here. Independent individuals who may understand it’s not always about bad people, it is just as, if not more likely, it’s because of bad administration, policy, staffing, training, etc.  Those create the gaps good people fall into and, yes, that bad people can leverage for themselves.  Fixing those problems prevents both.

The DSA would have had an ability to provide information as well since they are responsible, all three people assigned from the DSA (you could start here), for ALL the investigations in the jails. The DSA can attest to the level of training needed and how it was not transferred to CPOA members when their sergeants were removed.  Wow, if anyone is wondering why investigations aren’t happening, look at that. Not bad cops protecting their buddies, but an insufficient system intentionally created by the sheriff and the supervisors. Anyway, I digress into another subject… moving on.

The best part is the representation that law enforcement actually received on this commission — a complete throw away seat given no serious thought to its importance. So irrelevant is expertise to the builders of this commission, that law enforcement representation lost one of the two promised seats with no explanation and saw not a single independent individual with expertise in jails reform/review appointed to the group.

I had my concerns, but looking deeper into Dennis Grilli’s appointment just elicits a disgusted laugh. An officer that has been retired for something around 10 years, after a 30 year career, in which 40 years ago he worked in a jail that held fewer inmates that a single pod can potentially hold in our system. And Cortese actually had the audacity to put he had experience in “corrections operations”? That’s like hiring a punch card programmer to program Ruby Rails. He’s well connected, married to a Milpitas council member, and some apparently familial connection to a superior court judge. Politically comfortable enough, at least at one point in his career, where he was willing to manipulate the situation and wear his uniform to help a candidate campaign.  The most interesting tidbit was an indirect relationship to a lieutenant that stood at the sheriff’s shoulder during her press conference condemning the officer’s as guilty in the court of public opinion.

So, thank you so much David Cortese for selecting such wonderful representation for the CPOA and the DSA  and showing how little respect supervisors have for them and for the need for overall reform. They are impressed with the concern you and your other elected cronies have shown, and the diligence with which you ensured no stone in structural reform would get turned over. They’re impressed with the idea you’ve put forth that you can reform a jail with so many problems without a single person who even knows current standards set for jails to ensure there is a solid foundation to build upon. It’s impressive to hold a jail reform commission and selecting absolutely no one who can fairly represent a knowledge of “corrections operations” on any level whatsoever.  No, I don’t consider Mr. Grilli’s short term experience, 40 years ago in a very small environment to qualify as the experience necessary.

The deputies are especially impressed with the fact and want to thank the Mercury News who pulled the weasel words from their article that led the public to believe they didn’t want change and sought status quo; the claim they didn’t think their environment was dangerous — to them, to inmates or the public. Yes, that was sarcasm.  Shame on the Mercury News for printing what they knew to be a flat out lie that would be construed by the public as referring to deputies. Isn’t the interwebs a great place — a major media outlet can simply feed the public controversial lies and then erase them as if they were never there.

The problem is the foundation, it still is. If this commission doesn’t address it, it still will be. You want to know how I know? You know that story from yesterday about the “welfare call” that SJPD received resulting in finding a dead woman in an apartment? I know where the suspect showed up first, and I know what he was told. Because no one knew what to do. No policy on the matter, no training on the matter, no immediate supervision provided. You’re just damned lucky he took the walk he was advised to take and remained remorseful enough to follow through. Reality is, mistakes like that can be deadly and eventually a foundation element will result in another death. Where will you be then?

Ms. Cordell, Sheriff Smith, and Supervisor Cortese can continue to pretend that Walter Roches death has nothing to do with this… at this point, like it didn’t even happen. It did happen. And it didn’t happen because a deputy was intentionally “abusive” — it may have happened because a deputy and a lieutenant used a piece of equipment neither was properly trained on and policy which had a single sentence referencing “according to training” in regards to it’s use. Mistakes like that can be fatal.

We don’t know for sure about Mr. Roches death, the sheriff has refused to release cause an manner of death for 4 weeks now. She was able to release Mr. Tyree’s in just days and make an arrest on it. Either way, even if he was not killed by the unintended misuse of the FN 303, it could have killed him. Other people have died. Mr. Roches didn’t die because he was mentally ill. It could have been any uncontrollable inmate in those circumstances. People have died because of the FN 303 before. But we understand — you can’t demand the public hanging of a deputy when it’s the sheriff’s fault for eliminating every single check and balance in the jail to save money so the supervisors will reward her with another astronomical raise.

We’re not dumb. We see all this. We can see that the media, the sheriff, Ms. Cordell, and the supervisors are being very careful not to mention Mr. Roches’ name these days. His story might upset the $95,000 apple cart you’re building to ride on in the next election. And if I’m actually dumb enough to actually still be around for the sheriff’s next run, I completely expect to see our elected officials to send some poor scapegoat out to take the heat and say “we did a great job!” when the subject comes up, completely ignoring it took years of doing a bad job to create the situation where it appeared you all did a “great job.”

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