Laurie Smith’s Now Public Declarations

I’ve been chewing on all the information in the email exchange between our illustrious sheriff and Judge Cordell and its many implications over the past couple days.

I have to say it all makes me kind of nauseous. The information that the sheriff has been quietly starting an underground movement for her next campaign is clear in these emails. We’ve heard noise and rumor that she planned on running, but this is the first real action that we could tie to her actually beginning that process. No one I know believed she would run again, especially since the exposure of the conditions she’s created in the jails. Honestly, I still wish she left humbly with her legacy intact. It would have been easier for everyone and we wouldn’t have to be party or witness to the meltdown that appears to be starting.  I take no pleasure in this because it will hurt us all in some fashion.

What does this tell us? It tells us the sheriff is already actively lining up her endorsements as well as her arguments and doing damage control to cover herself. That is  likely willing to do anything to re-establish herself as the “successful, progressive, strong female leadership” reputation she built. Maybe that explains the sick look Cortese has all the time, I’ve been told he’s already made some noise in support of the sheriff’s running again. The emails make very clear the sheriff is actively trying to head off any damaging information that may be used by her opponents in an election that could highlight her mismanagement and neglect. She is already in full blown war strategy and we’re in a position of advantage right now and we need to maintain it.

It led me to think about the recent attempt to attack a DSA board member by accusing them of going to the media to damage a deputy who had been arrested in a nearby city. Which led me to think the sheriff has already developed and begun to implement a whole new strategy on how to deal with what she perceives has her most powerful enemy to date, the DSA.

This began some time ago. The sheriff has repeatedly gone to the media with every single minor issue regarding deputies in corrections. When it came to a DSA member being arrested, she applied a different strategy, accusing a specific DSA board member of going to the media despite her inability to show any proof.

She did not stop there, she took aggressive action to ensure deputies blamed this DSA board member. She had some captains hold department meetings to disburse the information against the DSA. Other captains and lieutenants appeared at pre-shift briefings to discuss what the they claimed the DSA had done. She appears to have sent her people to a prior DSA meeting to drive home the accusations they were making against this board member, probably in the hopes that making a direct accusation would have a better impact on DSA members.

The sheriff had her people imply that the deputy would have been quietly handled if only the DSA hadn’t spoken up. So what she was saying was if the information never got out, she would have overlooked what the deputy had done and the DSA chose instead to publicly burn the deputy. Ironically very much the subject at hand in the Blue Ribbon Commission – consistency in discipline.

I’ve since had information trickle in that the “leak” of public information did not come from anywhere inside either the Sheriff’s office or the Santa Clara PD. I was told roughly where it did come from, though I don’t have any way to verify it and I’m not going to try, I have no reason to disbelieve it. It makes sense. Which means my accusation that the sheriff released the information was likely wrong, as was her and her administrations against the DSA board member.

It’s clear to me at this point that the sheriff has a serious intent to undermine the DSA at an internal level and not just at a public level this time. Last election we were united, we spoke and we did make an impact. No, not enough to get her removed from office, but enough that we can continue to build on it if we don’t give up now with such a critical juncture at hand.

We have shown the people what the sheriff is. We have begun to uncover her poor leadership, her lack of commitment to a successful office, the way she tries to implement band aids to satisfy public concern, the damage she has done to the jails in just 6 years, and given that the increasing understanding that she has likely done similar damage to enforcement during her negligent tenure. It is now time to turn to offering solutions and answers. To strengthen our voice and make it a part of the conversation so the sheriff can’t so easily cast us aside as if we have no value, integrity, or concerns and are just a bunch of disgruntled Keystone cops. Her only goal right now is to silence us or devalue our opinion to the public. Our job is to show the public we are open to work with them, with their community organizations, with their elected officials. We are happy to do so independently if the sheriff continues to refuse to work with us and devalue us as a partner in this public agency.

The CPOA has been effectively silenced for the moment. Their voice was in the hands of one individual and that individual has found themselves caught up in the jail controversies. CPOA leadership must take the time to develop a strong voice that speaks for them, that isn’t swayed by the sheriff, and that encompasses at least two, preferably more people and they need to do it fast because the sheriff will use this to her advantage to keep the CPOA silent. Mr. Alvarez has made admirable first steps to this end and is beginning to fill a gap the sheriff will try to use to leverage your union efforts. This said, when the times comes, I encourage people voting for a new president and other positions to vote carefully and vote with knowledge about the individual’s history and actions that you choose to cast your ballot for. Know their motivations for seeking the role. This seat is open for anything now and do not doubt for a second the sheriff will try to fill it with her person just as she has done in the past with the DSA to weaken them.

She has attacked the DSA board directly once, and will likely try to do so again. She will attempt to continue to convince deputies that their board is weak and doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Last time she really did not believe that the DSA would vote against her. She was counting on being able to manipulate the support she had managed to get the prior election against Calderone. She underestimated her enemy and believe me she will not make that mistake again.

Laurie Smith will make efforts to set the DSA body into disarray by sowing distrust among it’s members so at the very least she will decimate the voting numbers that we saw last time come out against her in both the endorsement for Kevin Jensen and the vote of No Confidence. She will then either be able to claim a victory if she can win the vote, or at the least, show a poor turnout that she will spin as disinterest in having the DSA speak for you.

Now is the time to get involved with the DSA, to ask questions if you have concerns and get issues resolved among ourselves. Now is the time to question every single derogatory comment dropped by the sheriff’s administrators. Do not undervalue the impact a subconscious campaign to undermine your trust can have.

Make no mistake, the DSA is your voice here. You can either use it or not. It will ultimately say what the engaged membership wants it to say either directly or through your own actions or lack thereof as a membership.

I won’t go the all out propaganda route here and say “support your DSA”. I don’t believe in blind following. But what I will say is empower your voice and you can do this through the DSA. Be assured, the sheriff will continue to have her lieutenants and others seeking favor step up and speak out at the DSA meetings, in the office and elsewhere. If you as an individual want to be heard, you’re going to have to invest the same effort; the risk is the sheriff managing to successfully undermine your voice by weakening the mechanisms through which you can be heard, especially heard by the public that we have to appeal to in order to get new leadership.

The DSA could probably help this by letting their membership know some of their actions. We understand there are always stratagems that don’t need to be made public, but it would help reassure members if they knew relationships were being built and maintained across the board, not just reaching out during a time of crisis to people who have been informed we’re all something short of a criminal enterprise by our sheriff.  We know the sheriff does it and we know the sheriff works harder at these relationships than she does at running her office. If the DSA is doing it, they help themselves by letting their membership know some of the work towards those relationships and by setting our own agenda instead of allowing the sheriff to set it for us.

Another thought I had is that perhaps the DSA can consider opening a conversation about oversight. The DSA needs to lead that conversation before the sheriff does in the same way she led the organization of the Blue Ribbon Commission and is attempting to manipulate oversight the same way she’s attempting to manipulate the commission. Oversight is likely coming in one way or another, the writing is on the wall with corrections. It’s not a big leap to imagine it will either be enforcement next or we will simply be rolled into the corrections process in some form. It’s critical that the DSA be an independent part of assisting in developing what it looks like so the membership can trust it and feel it’s not simply an effort to attack them like has happened in so many other ways. There was, and really is still little trust in the Blue Ribbon Commission, though I suspect the report received from the attorneys did develop some trust for Judge Cordell in this process. But it was too late in coming at this point.  People who may have spoken had already chosen to remain silent out of fear of what would happen if one of the sheriff’s people was privy to who was talking.  Oversight needs to be built in a process that is transparent to everyone so they can trust it isn’t simply an extension of the sheriff’s current abusive system like so many other “fixes” in the past.

Perhaps it should be considered to either assign a current DSA board member or add a board member to begin to facilitate these kinds outside relationships; someone to start conversations and bring the necessary people together so we can begin to work towards solutions. An individual dedicated to be present at all the prerequisite meetings, be the person who carries ideas to the board or the community to begin a process. A person who can coordinate information and make sure everyone is on the same page and that they continue to turn the page and that things don’t stall along the way. Someone who has the time to stay on top of current local and state legislation that may affect us and join the conversation with our ideas, wants, and needs. Someone who can make sure that we’re in the loop and it doesn’t get dropped or we don’t get pushed out by the sheriff’s machinations. Someone whose primary job is to open the doors so the DSA can work with people cooperatively without relying on the sheriff who will invest in her interests before ours, even throwing us under the bus if that serves her interests.

Maybe the most important thing we need to do find a candidate to run against the sheriff that we and the public can support. Kevin Jensen would be a candidate that still exemplifies the changes needed and a person who has the integrity not to take personal advantage, if he’s willing. If not, we have our work cut out for us.

There are many things we already do, there are many more things we can do, and others that we need to do. We first need to work together and refuse to allow the sheriff to divide us before the more public stages of the election begin. We need to let people know, we are a partner, not the rogue deputies who are fighting off discipline, forsaking leadership because we don’t like it, and only looking for our next raise. That the majority of us in both enforcement and correction are good people who want to do the best job we can but we’re not being given the tools for our success. We are a part of this community as well and we want to make it better just like everyone else.