Updated @4:05pm 2/20/16: termination analysis of jail staff added below
I just finished watching the Blue Ribbon Commission meeting and I can not recommend enough that you watch this. There was a lot covered… but it eviscerated the image the sheriff has sent Hirokawa, Beliveau, and Sepulveda out there to convey. It felt almost like a brief moment of accountability that could possibly culminate into holding the sheriff accountable for this tragedy.
Sadly, while there were several calls that this be addressed from the top down as well as through recommendations, the call for change stopped at Undersheriff Hirokawa. I’ve often stated that Hirokawa would be the fall guy on this despite his only real ability to make a decision as the “top” individual was in laundry, food, mail and warehousing. I suspect that is why he failed to keep his announced date with retirement in December and now it appears to be timed near the end of the commission so his departure can be the beginning of the “change” and take the heat off the sheriff who has been the person truly in control of the office and the jails. I still believe that this entire structure continues to be a means to protect Sheriff Laurie Smith, as well as Supervisors David Cortese and Cindy Chavez for their actions regarding cutting the jails to save money all while ignoring the known risk to the lives and well-being of every person in our jails.
I wish the public could see the culture of the enforcement side is similarly damaged. This problem is not Hirokawa, but the entirety of the fourth floor, the absent sheriff, the incapacitated undersheriff, and the two (now three) assistant sheriffs whose only role is to micromanage nearly every decision to the sheriff’s often shifting demands based on her personal and emotional vendettas.
However, it did feel somewhat vindicating to finally see people understand the officers and deputies are just as at odds and wanting change as everyone else — inmates having “blanket parties” to attack deputies who are often alone in their duties among as many as 90 inmates, a state of mutual disrespect and disregard, a structure where even if a deputy wants to do the right thing, the administrative system has been built to make it as difficult as possible. Deputies are just as subject to intimidation and retaliation for daring to do something that may catch the wrong administrator’s eyes — maybe more so given the statement by the investigator about nearly begging staff to speak to him and having a memo sent out. I can imagine it was hard to keep a straight face when he said, “have you seen the memo…?” Paper is meaningless in that office, in case none of them noticed the gap between policy and practice. Oh. Wait. They did notice.
Anyway, there were so many points made and points of discussion I could have here on those points… and perhaps I will at some time… but for now, watch and digest. As always, I’m happy to share your thoughts here, either through your own blog post or comments below.
Documentation: Available documentation for the reports given can be found under #3 on the agenda at this location.
Video: the video recording of this meeting is located here. I’m not sure when it becomes available after the meeting, but I assume it will be up shortly. Also remember, you may need to go to an older version of firefox or other web browser. Sometimes it works in Chrome or IE, other times not.
Termination Analysis: I would also like to add a report I was just told is available on the DSA website, an analysis of the jail staff terminations made public by Laurie Smith. You can download their report on the DSA website.