I have in several writings stated that Mr. Callender had said he didn’t feel that federal oversight or a consent decree was necessary during the 3/5/16 BRC meeting.
I stand corrected. Mr. Callender contacted me and said he stated the exact opposite, so I went back and listened; I was wrong. He unequivocally stated he was a supporter of federal oversight and a consent decree and compared the situation to the LA county facilities so grossly mismanaged by Sheriff Smith’s colleague and peer, Sheriff Lee Bacca. A man now convicted of lying to subvert an investigation and hiding an inmate witness from investigators.
While we know there are issues with a handful of corrections deputies, I would hope that we continue to find the vast majority of them are not what they found in LA. As for our sheriff, Mr. Callender and I are in complete agreement…
It is time for a mandated oversight mechanism, be it consent decree or other possible available options, in Santa Clara County. The sheriff, and frankly the supervisors as well, can NOT be trusted to enact the real change needed to protect people inside our jails and ensure civil rights are protected, deputies are supported, and there is a system to ensure a standard and consistent level of training. The environment we are seeing in the jails has the potential to take the best intentions and twist them into the wrong actions — mostly because the lack of leadership or concern for training, security, integrity and accountability at the top.
The sheriff was given the jails in 2010. It is now 2016 and while not a single thing has improved, plenty has been damaged — more often than not with the unquestioning support of Supervisors David Cortese and Cindy Chavez. Programs have been cut by the sheriff, approved by the Board, despite being told via audits that the cuts should not be done.
It is evident in the repeated Civil Grand Jury reports regarding the deficiencies in basic security in the jails and the multiple reviews and even a 2014 outside audit of the Inmate Welfare Fund ordered by the supervisors that the sheriff nor the supervisors will step up and do the job to the level necessary on their own. They have engaged in a process of perpetual review and empty promises in regards to our public safety and it MUST stop now.
So my apologies to Mr. Callender. I hope he understands that some of the actions of his local colleague have brought into question the intent of the entire local organization. While I misheard the statement, I did not question it sufficiently because of actions I’m aware of by other within the organization. I am happy to find we are in agreement on this and I look forward to the recommendations you hinted at.
I hope again that while the BRC has no power of enforcement and their mandate only reaches into corrections and not enforcement, that it is taken into consideration the sheriff’s leadership failing so drastically at the jails, can’t differ significantly in enforcement and that recommendations will encompass the fact that her actions in enforcement need to be reviewed as seriously as we are doing in the jails.
The jails will likely end up benefitting from new leadership with only a minimal connection back to enforcement to ensure they have law enforcement powers within the jails. Laurie Smith will however be left to continue her decimation of enforcement — a slower, less offensive and less visible to the public situation at this point, but a continuing and growing problem none the less.
A consent decree or enforceable oversight of a transparent nature is about the only solution left to this problem unfortunately. I again apologize for not going back and giving a second review to what was said during the BRC. My practice generally is to confirm statements that seem significantly out of character — and I did not do so this time. It was presumptive and lazy of me.
It has been a long and frustrating path to get people to understand how serious the problem truly is and we have been met with everything from silence to ridicule. We have been openly ignored by community organizations and frequently mocked as disgruntled keystone cops shunning accountability thanks to the sheriff and her political machine. I speak only for me here, but it has been sorely disappointing to see communities around our nation screaming for their police to speak out when there are problems, to be a bigger part of their community conversation, to step forward when things were wrong… and to have been met in our community by ridicule when we did exactly that. It has been demeaning to our little community of deputies and those of us that support them. It allowed me to believe the worst — something I have been trying to fight in the way our deputies have been looked at, and I fell into the trap myself.
I hope to see that change and I hope that law enforcement in the county can develop a better relationship where concerns can be heard in the community, by the community, in a mutually beneficial and cooperative environment.