I’ve had an issue bubbling in my mind and I’ve remained silent on it because I didn’t want to speak from a point of frustration. I decided expressing a little frustration is necessary — maybe only for my own selfish reasons, but it is necessary. I’m sure this post will go over like a lead balloon and some will walk away for good, but this needs to be said. If you walk away, I hope you at least walk away with a rock in your shoe that will bug you until you start to go through information yourselves. That will mean at least the success of one of my goals with this blog.
I spend a lot of time of this blog. I do it because I am concerned. Not because I get anything from this — I don’t work for the sheriff, I don’t have to put up with her incompetence and vengeful mean-spiritedness, my life isn’t endangered by an environment I’m not allowed to control. I sure as hell don’t make a penny from this; though I’ve had a number of people tell me to put a donation button up, I have not. It’s not been about money. Trust me, the hours and weeks and months I’ve spent doing this for more than 5 years now, I would have loved to have been paid in light of the fact that the only payment I expected — people to take everything with a grain of salt, verify what was happening, and look around with open eyes and be honest and ethical in changing things — bounced at the bank.
I don’t expect you to believe everything I say, believe nothing and find out for yourself; I prefer that, my feelings won’t be hurt. I often try to provide information that comes from outside my personal sphere — letters, logs, emails, links to the videos and documentation from the Blue Ribbon Commission. I don’t expect your opinion to necessarily agree with mine, I just ask that you form one based on available information.
What I do expect is for you to take the time to educate yourself about the high points of what is happening in the work environment that I thought we were all concerned about when that information is readily available. It is why I posted links to the videos and information from the Blue Ribbon Commission for many of the meetings. Because if you want to change things you need to know for yourself what is being said, suggested, and recommended.
When the information is there for you to review yourself and form your own opinion, you should be doing that. It should be a common practice in anything that affects your life, especially when it impacts your everyday life. When you don’t do that, someone can lie to you, use your fears and concerns against you, and manipulate you with the information they want you to have.
I received a copy of a letter that was posted by a then candidate for CPOA Board President, Amy Le, and my jaw hit my keyboard with the blatant misinformation that was provided to you. Information that was clearly intended to drive itself home and get you to react based on law enforcement’s cultural fear of “liberals” and having their job made more difficult by ignorant civilians who wouldn’t know any better. Stop being a stereotype, already.
I was dumbfounded by information that was so clearly wrong that came from a) someone sitting on the commission as the representative voice of the CPOA, and b) someone running to lead the CPOA as their president.
“Tracy Kaplan from the San Jose Mercury News called and wanted to know why I voted against an Independent Civilian Oversight. Realizing the full impact of such a recommendation I could not support it. If the jails were to be removed from Sheriff Smith this means the jails would be removed from the Office of the Sheriff.”
No. Just, no. No, again. Clearly Ms. Le did NOT realize the “full impact” of such a recommendation.
Independent Oversight is INDEPENDENT. It does not remove the jails from the sheriff, nor does it remove the jails from the Office of the Sheriff. It is independent. Either Amy Le, sadly, failed to understand what Independent Oversight consists of, despite it being explained and discussed. Or she lied to you to leverage a legitimate concern you’ve all expressed. She used you fear to benefit the sheriff. Worse, she leveraged your fear to give the sheriff a future political argument to make it look like you don’t want change and you don’t want anyone to make sure you’re doing the right thing and that is why she’s so necessary. “The sheriff is open and transparent and wants to work together,” and now she can hold this up during a future election and add, “but the CPOA wants to stay with the secret police culture and continue to do bad things.”
I’ll let you decide – ignorance or intent behind this misinformation. It’s not my place, it doesn’t affect me either way. I just hope you understand the potential impact of this letter.
Independent oversight is where an entity(ies) would do things like review internal affairs results to ensure there is accountability in not just prisoner complaints, but also that your complaints and concerns are dealt with rather than buried. That there are no repercussions in the process against inmates or you for reporting. They are the one(s) who would review policy so the sheriff couldn’t lie about things like…say training and appropriate use of the FN 303 that resulted in a deputy having to carry that burden of failure on their conscience because of systemic failure to ensure staff is trained to the highest standards. It wouldn’t have allowed her to lie and get a deputy to stand next her to verify that lie about reviewing transportation policies with no concern that one of your own was hurt in an escape by a man who was ultimately given a life sentence and that it could happen again.
But Ms. Le went on.
“I realize that the best place for command and operations of the jails still resides in the Office of the Sheriff. If the jails were to be removed from the Office of the Sheriff, which would mean it may go to an unknown civilian political appointee. So by keeping control of the jails under the Office of the Sheriff, it is preventing some ultra-liberal civilian political appointee from taking control of our jails.”
Now again, working from the factual understanding that independent oversight does not take any power from the sheriff nor endow any civilian with a right to “take control” of anything other than the power to review and make suggestions and recommendations, this is more blatant pandering to your fears. Stop being a stereotype!
Oversight is coming. Make no mistake. The sheriff recommended it in her little drama where she submitted her 13 goals prior to the commission results. The commission has recommended it. The Board of Supervisors president has called it a priority. It will happen. What will your union’s role be in that process now? You going to go with the packet of misinformation fed to you in this letter? Because ultimately it’s meaningless in the face of all that support and public demand.
That is why I tried to make the point in the past — if you want a say on how oversight happens, want to fight having an ultra liberal political appointee who’s going to pander to activists while looking the other way and blaming you for everything because the sheriff picked that person, you need to understand what is happening. You need to get behind supporting oversight and demand your union have a real role in setting the expectations, policies, practices, and just as importantly, helping select who goes into these position(s). Your CPOA president will likely have a role now – do you trust her to represent you now? Are you going to get behind Amy Le, who either lied or was clueless in that letter, and dig in with obstructionism and finish writing the sheriff’s playbook for her? You won’t win this one if that’s your goal and you will come out looking like the exact stereotype she is working to paint you as.
When the sheriff recommended oversight in her presentation did it ever cross your mind, she’s never going to damage her own power base? Or did you not bother to actually go look at what she was recommending? Trust me, she will never recommend someone take away part of her kingdom that she has worked so hard to acquire. You know that, I know that. I would bet Ms. Le knows that too.
“I don’t think leadership change is what’s needed to improve our jails. I don’t want to lose our peace officer status and work for some non-sworn administrator. So I opposed [Independent Civilian Oversight].”
Oversight will do none of those things. Not one. It won’t change leadership. Has less than nothing to do with your peace officer status, and would not put a non-sworn administrator in a position of command to replace the sheriff, or even put them into a position with any power whatsoever. They’ll have an opinion. You may or may not agree with it, but everyone can be assured that the decision they had an opinion on came through a system and set of policies that can be called relatively trustworthy — no special star chambers, no ducking out of responsibility because you’re a sheriff’s pet. It will be immediately obvious when that happens and will call the entire process into account.
Ask yourself, how did now-president Amy Le get it so very wrong? Who ultimately benefits from her getting it so wrong? Not you, she’s just effectively turned you into a political punching bag hung at the ready for when the moment of need appears. Amy Le? She’s now your paid union leader. She’s getting lots of media attention and is the darling of many of the sheriff’s favorite reporters following rumors that she has her eye on a future political career — maybe next sheriff after Laurie’s 6th term? Maybe city council member or supervisor? I’ve definitely heard solid noise about one of those offices, I’ll leave it to you to find out which one. What did the sheriff get? She just had her entire political strategy reinforced by one letter and your vote based on that convenient misinformation. She now has a CPOA president that is either complicit or failing to educate herself on the topics for whatever reason. Whatever that reason, it would behoove you to find out as soon as possible so you can work to prevent future damage to your position.
But it doesn’t end there. Then Ms. Le goes for the sympathy vote, how she’s been attacked on social media by “the same folks who want to intimidate and control our union into carrying out their personal wishes.” I assume she means at least some of these people are me and those who contribute to the blog. I don’t have any “personal wishes” for your union. Intimidate and control? If pointing out facts — like the many failures of fact in Ms. Le’s letter — is intimidation and control, it’s only to attempt to get people to understand how necessary it is to get as close to the source of information as possible and couch your own opinion. Go get the information and look at it for yourselves. Go talk to the sources. Go watch the videos, read the discussions, understand the recommendations, understand the needs of your work environment and exactly how they are or are not being met. Know what the hell independent oversight consists of.
Yes, I imagine this does feel a bit like a pile-on for Ms. Le. Unfortunately for her, I don’t ignore inaccuracies, especially harmful inaccuracies. She needs to take responsibility as a leader for what she puts in front of you and what she is willing to do to get and maintain your support. It’s part of leadership and if she’s concerned about being held accountable for her actions when she puts out information as wrong as this, then she’s in the wrong job.
As for her sucking up to the sheriff, I more suspected it to be a case of the sheriff sucking up to her. I held back on a lot of information that poured into my email box regarding Ms. Le’s work history because of the exact reason she was betting on — I knew she was involved with supporting Kevin Jensen, I thought she had a grain of responsibility and integrity. I had the promotional information long before it came out here or anywhere and I held it. I held it until it got to a point I was seeing other cracks. Supporting Kevin 2 years ago doesn’t mean anything. There are several others who supported change with Kevin who have been recently become very public faces behind pushing the union busting agenda of the sheriff. Why should Amy Le be any different especially in light of this latest information?
Add all this into the sheriff’s political hack, Rich Robinson’s comment about the sheriff taking care of the unions. CPOA down, DSA up next. Really? Where does all this lead you? To a place where you think these people suddenly have your best interest at heart? Where the sheriff no longer promises people things if they’ll throw you under the bus? Have you learned nothing over the past 6 years they’ve been gutting everything around you and demeaning you every time you thought of speaking up? They don’t change, they haven’t changed, and Amy Le, if this letter is any indication, is not fighting for you.
While most of what may be in Ms. Le’s decision to not support oversight can be attributed to a number of potential reasons, it certainly doesn’t seem like the well-being of the union is at the top of the agenda now. Like I said, maybe it’s a sheriff pushed agenda, maybe not. Maybe Ms. Le didn’t understand what was being proposed and didn’t ask for further clarifications, or maybe Ms. Le is lazy and can’t be bothered to get facts straight, or maybe it was just for personal benefit and accidentally snugs up with the sheriff’s agenda. Whatever the reason, wrong is wrong and the information she provided was wrong and put you in a bad position.
Amy Le’s letter and subsequently successful run for president figuratively flushed much of the effort to change things and make you a functional part of that change down the toilet. Or at least she has given it the old college try. Now she’s in a position to help finish the job, do you trust her? As I’ve said before, the DSA experienced the days of a sheriff manipulating and colluding with their union leadership… looking at what is happening now, do you think any of them felt they benefited from that? Why do you think they’re constantly fighting off her attempts to gut the union and get people in again? Because they know the membership gets the dirty end of the stick forced on them. They’ve been there. The Board of Supervisor’s going to save you? Not likely. They haven’t made any real effort so far — most of their effort is protect them. Money for PR firms, secret investigations, changes that you have no role in helping design.
I saw Ms. Le’s. victory letter too. At a time she should be fighting to be a part of making real change — getting a union voice in policy development, modernizing what has been called negligent and archaic training, fighting for a checks and balances system to make sure IA investigations have integrity and won’t violate your rights during the process, she’s instead all about pre-shift snacks and getting incentive pay for the very basic CPR/FA training that you have agreed contractually to keep up to date. Is that what this fight is about.. snacks and few hours of incentive credit? That’s sad.
Honestly, I wish you folks luck. These decisions are in your hands, not mine. If you want to continue to make them from a point where you allow others to manipulate your concerns when the entire blue ribbon commission body of work remains on-line for you to see, that is your choice and now that I’m aware I’m just banging my head against a brick wall, I can stop if that’s the case. Doesn’t hurt me.
I agree, the jails need to stay under the Office of the Sheriff. There are a ton of benefits to it if it’s done right, and it can be done right. But the current sheriff’s power needs to be curtailed in some manner to ensure proper decisions are being made and accountability is being treated appropriately. It seems virtually every other SO in the state can function without dividing their staff by failing to provide a process to get them up to fully sworn status, demeaning people with different badge statuses, and endangering everyone in the jails with gross incompetence in leadership and administration. But it only happens here if you’re continuing to fight against the tide set by sheriff’s failed skill set…or endure 6 more years,what wall can she drop on you next?