The Core Problem is Trust & Integrity

The BRC discussion starts around the 1 hour 18 minute mark

I am not yet finished listening to the 2+ hour Blue Ribbon Commission discussion. I’ve listened through the first comments of Cindy Chavez and I’m about to explode.  Yes, this is going to be something like a rant.  It’s not going to be well edited, it’s going to be emotional because I keep going between laughter and tears of frustration, and I’m trying to hang onto some level of pragmatism in this post while still letting my emotions and frustrations with this process be  heard… because I think it’s important for the public to know what a painful, hurtful, frustrating process this has been for so many deputies who will never show anything but stoicism in the face of adversity because that is what their job demands of them.

First let me say, I am *tired* of the Cortese/Chavez show excusing themselves. One of Cindy’s comments, no many of Cindy’s comments struck the consistently tone deaf bell we’ve been listening to from the Board of Supervisors for far too long.

In no particular order:

Cindy says, “…we could spend a lot of time rehashing and re-evaluating what did or didn’t work.” This was posed in a manner that came across to me as it would be a waste of time to rehash what did or did not work in our jails. Yet she wants to “understand the problem from what we understand about the problem.” If you ever wanted to hear a bunch of words thrown together in the hopes of trying to make your dismissal of a serious issue sound reasoned and valid– there you go. Seriously if you fail to re-evaluate the things that did or did not work from the past then, (tell if you’ve all heard this before) you are doomed to repeat the past. I think most are familiar with that borrowed phrase and why that statement rings true.

Cindy says, “…we responded as a community to a crisis…a crisis that we saw…” — a crisis that you were told was coming if something wasn’t done about the sheriff. A crisis that is not yet complete as long as she is in the role of sheriff because she has been wreaking the same havoc inside enforcement — and you’re still choosing to ignore that. Just like the supervisors chose to ignore the audit that said don’t implement the majority of the sheriff’s plan, and the following 2 needs assessments that showed the quick and severe deterioration of the jails under her supervision while she implemented said plan with your repeated blessings every budget.

Cindy says “there wasn’t any hesitancy” when [Chavez & Cortese] approached the sheriff and undersheriff. Why would there be any hesitancy on the part of a gilded, narcissistic politician who has been assured and reassured of her throne for nearly 2 decades by the very people approaching her? People who endorsed her despite knowing there was a growing unrest in the sheriff’s domain, who endorsed her before they even knew if anyone would run against her; who failed to give real weight and consideration of the information that was brought to them in a number of ways by the DSA and CPOA members as if they were standing there because they had nothing better to do.

There was no hesitancy, yet this BRC disclosed much of what the DSA and CPOA have been screaming from the rooftops for years now. The DSA and the CPOA which supervisors and the public chose to ignore, to stand silent as they were mocked as keystone cops and nod knowingly as the sheriff called them all corrupt and all but compared them to children who wanted a negligent babysitter so they could “get favors.” I think it’s been shown we already have the negligent babysitter, and if we must be treated as children, let it at least be with the dignity and respect the sheriff has never shown the members of the DSA or CPOA, privately or publicly.

So please stop with the “great reformer” act. You had an opportunity to stop this chain of events on several occasions, and you chose to double down on allowing it to continue. You are not reformers, you are complicit contributors at best.

The complicity continues when the sheriff has been exposed for the failure she is, Chavez and Cortese immediately hit the media before they even have the recommendations officially, that they won’t consider at least one of them? If that’s not unprofessional, political hubris and trading in favors then I don’t know what is. It was clear they were trying to back peddle from some of those statements, but still trying to say they wouldn’t consider the recommendation…

And President Cortese, trying to fill the vacuum of leadership from the supervisors when the Sheriff demanded private communications from Judge Cordell. The proper response would have been to publicly and vehemently support the integrity of Judge Cordell and the domain of the… YOUR… commission. Instead you reached out privately to try to “mend fences”? Between a Judge doing the job she took on and a sheriff who did exactly what the deputies told you she would do — tried to manipulate the commission and tried to scare her deputies away from speaking to anyone on the commission with a threat to pursue private communications. You stood silent and you allowed the integrity and trust of your commission to be damaged by your political ally. No more, no less. YOU, your own leadership, and the remainder of the supervisors have created and reinforced your own own issues of trust and credibility with the public in this failure.

Which brings me to public comments (which came before the supervisor’s statements above). I was in tears of… joy, frustration… relief. To hear person after person after person finally understand the heart of the problem was the lack of heart the sheriff provides to this office. Finally we’ve been heard, finally people understand — sadly it did not happen before the deaths of Michael Tyree, Walter Roches, and Vladimir Matyssik.

The supervisors were told — you must change the culture of this office to succeed. Culture is created by the leader and their expectations. What you are seeing in the jails is the culmination of the sheriff’s expectations of her staff. She does not care beyond the fact she has a shiny political toy she can manipulate to her own ends. You can’t change the culture of the office without trust in those changing the culture and there is not a deputy in enforcement or corrections left standing that will ever trust the sheriff again. They will never trust the board of supervisors as long as the sheriff continues as they do not trust the relationship there thrives with any integrity. The immediate dismissal of some recommendations without hearing the overwhelming understanding from the public today reinforced the distrust in the relationship between sheriff and supervisors.

Without trust, you won’t hold on to the staff you have. With such dysfunctional relationships on public display you’ll not gain qualified employees looking for a professional agency to build or continue a career.

Without the public trust, no one will ever believe that the recommendations that are accepted will be both implemented and sustained. We heard it over and over in public comment — we want continuing oversight to make sure we’re not being led down a blind path to the next crisis where the sheriff, Cortese and Chavez can play “great reformer” on the backs of those they injured.

Thank you to those that committed their time to endure this puppet show. Thank you to those who showed up at the BoS meeting to extend the message of the need for change and the need to ensure these recommendations are followed through on in a very real and continuing manner. It was both disheartening to see that level of distrust in our sheriff and supervisors and heartening that they were willing to express the distrust needed to be addressed in the process.

I owe LaDoris Cordell and apology. Judge, I was told from the outset that you had an implicit bias against police. That you would treat the deputies as if they had no voice or no role because you had no trust in law enforcement. I believe at the beginning we saw at least shadows of the disbelief you had for the stories that came from the enforcement side — putting so much blame on the sheriff.

Not only do I apologize, but I thank you for keeping an open mind in this process and understanding that the deputies have been put at risk as well. That a large majority of the deputies WANT to do their job right, WANT to have the right tools, training and knowledge in their hands. That they’ve been denied those very reasonable wants, but worse, intimidated and bullied for daring to express the desire for a functional work place.

We all know there will always be the proverbial bad apple in the barrel. I hope we also realize that the environment can unintentionally make a lot of bad apples as well. Yes, there are a lot of deputies doing the wrong things. It’s what they’ve been taught, it’s how they’ve learned to cope with an environment that has been decimated. It’s the tools they’ve been given.

One of the reasons I do what I do here on this blog is because I have personally been awed by the raw material that exists within the sheriff’s office in the form of deputies. I say material because a leader would be able to put aside the emotional dislike and disdain she holds for so many and use their skills to better the office. None of us have enjoyed the company of all those we’ve worked with — but it’s not a social event. It’s a job with a clear mission, the sheriff has put her emotional relationships at the forefront of her decision-making again and again, fostering disrespect and distrust.

I was happy to hear you begin to include the officers in your thoughts for the future of the jails. I could be wrong, but I think that perhaps you had a unique experience in this in that you had the opportunity to look behind “the thin blue line” and gain an understanding of why it is so hard to come to the public, hat in hand and ask for help in fixing problems. They fear the implicit bias. They fear the over-reaction against them because of that implicit bias. I think that we have all gotten to look at a whole lot of ugly underbelly issues over the past few months in looking at our jails… racism, gender bias, and bias that go both for and against police.

We have a long, long way to go and the past few weeks I have felt very disheartened by the rhetoric from the board of supervisors. Back to the night where the shout of “Keystone Cops!” was made by the sheriff’s political friend and the media ran with it — a place where I have little hope of seeing anything change and wonder if this is a fight really worth fighting or just stop stressing myself and let the public will of ignorance in what their elected officials do run it’s course.

Today, I don’t know if I really have the will or desire to keep going at this, but I do know that today because of you, Judge, I saw voices join in understanding that there is a drastic problem in our jails, there is core issue of failure in leadership that has driven that problem, and a recognition that the problems extend to enforcement even though they are powerless at this point to address those issues. The “powerless” issue rests heavy on me right now. If you’re powerless, if the community leaders are powerless, what power to the deputies who are so easily dismissed by their board, the supervisors, and the media have?

I’m not sure I have an answer to that question that satisfies my soul today. Maybe I will tomorrow.