Note: this blog covers a dynamic situation and circumstances may change as this situation progresses.
About month ago, buried in the shill rag known as the Mercury News was this little tidbit from the sheriff, “What a coincidence that last week after a media outlet filed a public records act request to obtain these hateful text messages that the union leadership is suing to stop their release.” It struck me that the lawsuit filed at that time wasn’t to stop the texts from being released, but to ask the county to examine the legality under which the sheriff has released and used some those texts for her own political expediency.
I’ve been pushing a few stones around to find out exactly what her snappy little comment means. And I’ve heard some disturbing things. It’s being reported off the fourth floor that the PR firm stepped outside the box, possibly beyond the scope of contract, and are to help the sheriff attack the unions that work for her and this may be one of the mechanisms of which they’re advising her to do just that. It’s been implied, and some actions are certainly backing that up, that the sheriff intends to use the PR firm to help her sling as much mud as possible everywhere in the hopes of completely discrediting her deputies, no matter who has to suffer the consequences.
That comment of the sheriff’s was apparently foretelling something we could only suspect at that moment and still may not come true. I hope the sheriff has more sense, but I’ve been told by some who have allegedly witnessed her outbursts that anger and vengeance are the ruling tactics, professionalism and reason left the floor long ago.
The sheriff also stated in that same article, these were “…text messages obtained through a criminal search warrant, not personnel records.” There is a problem with that. The text messages in question were obtained into criminal investigation, yet these particular texts had nothing to do with the criminal investigation at all. They were gathered in a broad-reaching request for all texts from the suspect over a ten month period regardless of their association to the actual crime. The investigation was into the actions of a deputy on a different matter, which yes, did ultimately result in criminal charges that we are all aware of and have been publicized. Text messages involving the racism were not a part of that criminal investigation, but simply collateral information that was gathered through that broad request during the process of the other investigation. The discovery of racist texts opened a new investigation into those specifically — an internal personnel investigation that remains ongoing with no criminal charges stemming from it to date.
The racist text messages would have no reason to be part of the public record in the filings of the crime the first deputy was charged with as the sheriff is attempting to claim. There has been NO charges filed against anyone on these specific texts to date, no investigation completed, and no internal action taken as of the writing of this beyond suspending officers while the investigation is ongoing that I am aware of.
This investigation into the texts has now been ongoing for SIX months, and the hold up appears to be the sheriff’s political desire to burn down as many “enemies” as she can and she wants at least some of the recipients according to sources; she feels that the potential illegality of releasing these texts will be forgotten in the scuttle that the deputies — all the deputies — will face when these texts hit the media. She had the case of Michael Tyree on the desk of the DA in hours, but this case has taken 6 months?
It’s my understanding, as vile as the texts were, there is little or no evidence that most or even all the people involved allowed a racist philosophy interfere with their work product. People I have talked to about the deputies whom I know were involved (which is only a couple of the 12 suggested by the sheriff in some media releases) their work was unimpeachable at this point. That doesn’t justify the texts, but it makes it a lot harder to fire people who were doing their job right and had no disciplinary actions on their file, no matter what their views of others are. Those views and opinions are protected by our first amendment rights, and as egregious as you and I may find them, their right to speak allows our right to condemn such statements just as openly. To take away their right, removes my right to stand against such opinions.
Of course all of this is a double bind for the sheriff — is their clean record because of their work, or is it because the sheriff has no accountability structure and they were problems brushed under the rug? We may never know at this point — and we have the sheriff to blame for that. But that will be forgotten in the immediate condemnation and assumptions about ~1100 deputies and officers.
The media doesn’t care — they’re going to sell papers, lots and lots of shill papers. They’re going to get shill awards. They’re going to save their sorry shill rag, at least for a little while. The role of fourth branch of government is meaningless to people like those at the shill rag. They get to take out a whole agency of “bad” keystone cops and still keep their relationship with the suffering savior sheriff who has had to endure the group of miscreants. Rumor has also reached by ears that the sheriff has possibly colluded with the media and the PR firm in creating the story-line of “already public information” to make sure that FOIA request is honored and the texts, despite clearly not being part of a criminal investigation and part of an ongoing personnel investigation, are released. I don’t know if this is true, born of the ugly relationship between political entities and the Mercury News as well as some other local media entities, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Nothing surprises me when it comes to the ugly underbelly of Santa Clara County these days.
The sheriff is going to burn every deputy in enforcement and corrections by publicizing, possibly illegally, a personnel investigation for her political benefit. Given the atmosphere of the public, and the fear that somehow someone might actually listen to the deputies that have been talking now for three years (and pretty much proven their credibility again and again through the problems that have come to the forefront recently) she has to burn them down. Having her paid shill call them keystone cops and liars won’t be enough this time. This time the deputies… the scary, powerful “unions”… have report after report laying out the growing failures she implemented in the jails. We have the increasing reports that her primary business, enforcement, is suffering drastically from lack of personnel. She needs to silence them.
I mean if the deputies were arguing there was nothing wrong with what was said (they aren’t), if they were denying there were ongoing problems in the office (they never have while the sheriff has), if they were trying to actually hide there were problems (again, not them, but the sheriff has) I could see the fight. But the deputies are demanding accountability. They are demanding a better system of accountability. They are absolutely first to come to the table to say there are problems and offer their assistance and support in implementing REAL fixes. The deputies are doing everything the public demands of “good cops” and yet here we are — allowing a corrupt sheriff to use and abuse public attitudes to benefit her political odds.
So what happens if she releases all this? She wins, politically speaking. The deputies will be looked upon with disgust by the many people we hear tell us how they all must be bad if one is bad. How “they didn’t speak up, so they’re just as bad” even though deputies have been speaking up for years about problems and been ignored by the sheriff, the county and the public no less. Her deputies will be as worthless as any other agency under fire, deserved or not. The texts will probably draw national attention and dump a nation’s worth of derision on the deputies while patting the sheriff on the back for her “transparency”; ignoring when there’s a question about her practices there is no transparency to speak of and she will publicly attack anyone who tries to create any, as LaDoris Cordell found out.
What else happens? The deputies leave. Would you work for a boss that would publicly drag you through the mud, make your job harder, destroy your reputation, even risk your safety all for a political ploy to cover her failures? How many candidates do you think come to work for someone like that? Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office will make working for SJPD look like a dream job.
So here’s hoping those texts aren’t going to be released, but rumors as of right now, the decision is they will go out, but the legal process to make that happen apparently may not yet be complete.
Deputies, why aren’t you looking for a new job yet?