In the roll up to the Super Bowl it seems the news attempted to keep our attention on the sheriff to a point. Several stories came out in the path of the Super Bowl and the public seemed to run right over them.
In the aftermath, Beyoncé’s performance became the centerpiece about changing how our justice system works rather than actually working to improve it and address the continuing failures of Sheriff Laurie Smith’s leadership.
I have a really hard time believing, at this point, that anyone’s life matters in the celebrity hype that this issue has become. A lot of people making themselves a centerpiece of a discussion we’re not really having. It’s discouraging.
This is an interesting story, because one of the deputies involved attempted to file a law suit alleging work place harassment, race discrimination and accusing supervisors for failing to address said issues, and supervisors for writing her up for filing a complaint against co-workers. The alleged situation happened in 2013, and the filing signing is dated 2013, but the filing occurred a full year later, 2014 according to the clerk’s stamp. Was there an ongoing issue here with the deputy that was never addressed? What was she written up for, when and why? Was it a race issue? Or was it a case of a deputy not doing their job and attempting to get out from under it by filing a suit? Was it an example of the racism as shown by the texting scandal going on? It seems that there was some kind of strife before this deputy was accused of allegedly beating an inmate before mid-2016. Was there something in the prior 3 years that should have been done, or that wasn’t done?
This is the problem with the administration of the sheriff’s office… a never ending series of unanswered questions that are elevating themselves to crisis status.
If it was the co-workers and the supervisors, what was done to follow through and address such a failure? If it was the deputy having issues and trying to get out from under being held accountable, where was the mentoring program Sheriff’s Captain Sepulvida talked about to the Blue Ribbon Commission? The additional training? What was done to prevent a continuation or the escalation of whatever the situation was on the part of whomever was at fault?
Or is this case just another example of the empty words the sheriff’s office fed the Blue Ribbon Commission?
This story covers 2 issues — a suspicious death that we’ll never know the truth about because of the type of investigative failure we’ve been pointing to for years now. A man who “fell and broke his neck” — yet by the time an investigator was sent everything, including blood evidence was cleaned up. Blood evidence from a broken neck? How is that explained? Questions remain like how long did the body lay in the shower unnoticed?
I reached out about this case after the story. Some thought there may have been some type of re-enactment of the scene due to concerns that a fall was not the cause of the fatal injury. As the news story said, we will never know now, because the evidence that could have determined if the inmate was attacked had been cleaned up. Likely due to lack of training, lack of protocol and policy rather than any nefarious intent of the deputies. The fact remains any law enforcement officer is only as good as their training or lack thereof. We’ve known for years the sheriff has failed to send experienced investigators in a timely manner and lost potential evidence — the De Anza case, Audrie Pott case, the PG&E substation attack. All suffered failures in serving justice because the sheriff’s lack of commitment to investigate for any number of reasons.
The second case on this report was the oft mentioned in this blog, Walter Roches case. Interesting, while every other news outlet in the area wrote this off as “nothing to see here” with hardly a glance, ABC 7 chose to look deeper and it seems there probably was quite a bit to see here. Failures in training all the way up to at least the lieutenant level, failings in policy, failings in the care of the mentally ill and much more. At the very least we have a gross medical failure to identify a *very serious* physical ailment in an individual who was alleged by the sheriff to be under 24 hour watch at the time due to mental health issues and, I’m assuming, due to the use of force injuries. A systemic infection, they say developed from a urinary tract infection, that often would result in fever and other uncomfortable, even painful symptoms. Remember also that just because he died of sepsis doesn’t rule out significant injuries received during the use of force incident being contributory to a more severe infection.
The use of force for extraction was video recorded by the Deputies in the jail to show there was no excessive force used, yet the Sheriff refuses to release this video. If it would fully exonerate her policies and events where she says nothing was done wrong, I ask why not release it? Does it show excessive force? Inappropriate use of force that was justified under policy and blessed by an administrative management level deputy? Does the video actually document the use of force and demonstrate the deputies were within policy. Speaking of policy why was the policy not released? From what I’m hearing there is no policy for these deputies and the recording would show the use of force and there is no office policy to justify the actions the deputies were ordered to accomplish. I’ve been told that on the contrary the deputies are required to read the use of force policy when qualifying at the range. So are there two policies? One written and the other unwritten? It sounds like there is a lot more digging to do to get to the truth of the Walter Roches case. Hopefully Dan Noyes does stay on the case since the rest of the media has given the sheriff a pass on this failure.
While we’re discussing getting the truth, perhaps the Santa Clara Coroner’s office should no longer do any internal death investigations looking at the results of these two cases. Not as long as they’re under the administration of the sheriff.
This is a sad and unfortunate story that could have been prevented but for division and office mismanagement that continues to this day. Remember when I was asking what if it was you’re kid that was the victim of the sheriff’s poor practices? As we were asking that, this case was falling through the cracks. An understaffed, under trained investigations division was under fire trying to keep up with the Sierra LaMar case. People were pulled off their regular cases for months. Investigators and deputies were drawn off other jobs and investigations to “be visible” and to run up the bill to reach the cost level where federal assistance money became available. I was told there were deputies and sergeants assigned to sit in their cars at visible intersections in the area for upwards of 12 hours, being paid overtime with no directions given other than to sit there. It became a common joke in the office that the Over Time was time to catch-up on Netflix at time and a half.
It all culminates in an immense waste of resources through both mismanagement and intent. Compare those “high profile” parking duties when reviewing the costs of this case and the fact that the little girl has not been returned home and today we’re looking at a case where a victim of sexual abuse was overlooked in the disorganization ultimately leaving yet another victim in the hand of an abuser for years. This case, founded by the deputies who did the initial case, languished when it was sent to investigations because of division leadership’s lack of following cases, the office’s lack of technology to track cases, and the lack of staffing to deal with the burden of cases which was added to over the time the LaMar case was ongoing.
How can you ensure coverage when the sheriff even took action to send some investigators home to “take a few days off” if they disagreed with the manner the investigation was being conducted. Others were even removed from the investigation and reassigned. This is the inefficiency that continues to cost us all. We can only hope that some day an Auditor will conduct a review of this investigation to see just how far-reaching the failures were.. Thankfully the county in general is relatively safe since we can’t all afford to move to our “Sheriff’s Safest Cities.”
So ask yourself, because of the sheriff’s disorganization, lack of modernization, commitment to training and building experience — who else is out there now paying the price? Because we do know, there is a price to pay for the way she runs the office. What if it’s you or your loved one paying the price next time?
Thursday night at 11 PM on ABC7 another story I had been mentioning here in the past will be airing. I was happy to have one of my sources reach out today and tell me this was going to launch. I look forward to see the coverage on this story, and I hope that it draws the attention back to the sheriff’s office policy and practices when it’s made clear how and why this family lost their loved one. I hope the public gets back on track with developing an understanding of how deep the problems run at the sheriff’s office… that the problems we’re seeing at line level have been percolating down through the ranks for years now, and without addressing the top, we can never fix the rank and file. Without fixing the bad or missing policies, the lack of training, the incompetent management, the negligence and corruption in management, the management by intimidation and threat… our rank and file will never be allowed to be the best they can be.