Clarification is Clouded by Santa Clara Co. Sheriff’s Contracts

So the curiosity of what’s happening with the number of enforcement deputy openings has been clarified — to a point. The sheriff and the county agree after deleting 29 open and funded codes, there are “only” 78 unfilled coded positions. So then we have to ask, are we down to 78 because apparently there were 29 codes that were unneeded? 29 codes that couldn’t have been recoded to fill other needs? Or simply 29 codes the Board and Sheriff randomly decided to get rid of to try and make the problem look a little more palatable and take away the concern of what the sheriff has been doing all this time with the millions of dollars that should have been used to fill those positions? What codes exactly were suddenly considered “unnecessary” because the sheriff failed to fill them, and do we really have no other real needs?

The sheriff says we have, for the first time in who knows how long, 25 cadets graduating from academy specifically for our office. Glad to know the pressure has forced her to start using her academy to fill her own open positions here rather than strictly profit off training for other agencies.

So, they are about to promote 25 people out of academy, an academy that has been consistently decreasing in rankings each year because of the sheriff’s lack of ongoing commitment to it. This will thereby reduce our open positions number to slightly over 50. There are some problems with that — deputies still have a probationary period as well as having to successfully pass field training. Not everyone who makes it through academy makes it through field training, firstly. But a new ugly monster has risen its head. I’ve been told that some files for cadets that should have failed out disappeared from the pile of cadets to be failed out. So we now have some number of cadets who should have already been disqualified, I do understand it’s fairly small, 3 to 5, for the incident I was told about but it’s enough. Do you want to be the one with the person who should have failed and have to rely on them in life and death situations? Worse, do you want to be the person detained by the deputy who has shown the office they don’t know how to do their job?

So while there are fewer positions to fill, the quality of deputy is also being lowered. Significantly it appears. This will successfully further lower the moral of deputies, put them and the public at further risk, and risk the overall quality if experienced, quality people continue to leave like we’ve been seeing.

But it gets better. The list of 78 open codes, as far as I’m aware, does not cover the number of people listed on paper in one position, but out “on loan” to another contract, like courts or the VTA. Nor does it address the fact that the courts contract is a dumping ground for those on workman’s comp or other long term absences. See the contract for the courts is handled by the state so the sheriff can easily shuffle numbers between the two without the county or state being any the wiser about duplications.

On Tuesday in the budget meeting, the sheriff dismissed many of the open positions claimed by the DSA were in courts implying they were inappropriately conflating the staffing for enforcement with courts. The problem is, deputies available fill both enforcement and the sheriff’s contracts, including but not limited to courts, the VTA, Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Altos Hills and the ME’s office. There are no people hired specifically for courts, or the VTA, or Saratoga. They’re all hired for enforcement and assigned out to a job. Except for the extra help deputies which pose growing concerns as they run out of available legal hours.  It is my understanding that a large number of extra help deputies were sent home Monday of this week because they were maxed on hours, leaving courts even more short than it already is until they reset.

So how many real openings are there in courts and other contracts, sheriff? How many people assigned on paper are actually “on loan” elsewhere and making it look as if all is good? If there are 78 openings in enforcement does that mean the needs of Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Altos Hills, the VTA, etc. — all positions filled by enforcement deputies — are 100% satisfied? If that’s the case, it seems that those contracts continue to be handled to the detriment of your county commitment. You know, the commitment you were elected to ensure is taken care of first, not last.  We have 78 unfilled openings and have just lost 29 other positions because the sheriff failed to fill them and their actual need remains unknown to the greater public at this point.

But it gets better. The sheriff is apparently getting ready to take on a new contract — one that they seem to not want to tell you about with San Jose Police Department. I’m quite sure San Jose isn’t doing this without approaching the sheriff and CHP about resources and capability. I found it immensely interesting that NBC Bay Area did the story the other night, but only dead links to the story can be found now. Is the sheriff trying to keep this under cover from the public in light of the fact she is in the spotlight for massive failures at the jails, tens of millions in lawsuits, and the County Executive seeking to remove her from oversight of the Medical Examiner’s Office over accusations that she’s interfered with cases, potentially internal cases like the Walter Roches case?

This means what?  That our current patrols simply extend into San Jose? How far? What will the reduction of service be to areas we are obligated to serve? Who will they rely on when our deputies are in San Jose dealing with crime there? Will there be an expansion of personnel for this contract? If so, how many of those shiny new 25 deputies we’re theoretically seeing come on and be assigned to the San Jose contract rather than one of the 78 positions open? Thereby leaving us with more openings than you’re currently projecting?  Surely these numbers have been talked about and considered at some level as San Jose goes through the process to contract the Sheriff’s Office and CHP? No?

Should we be legitimately concerned that the SO is over extended as is right now and that the sheriff’s management of any new contract should be seriously considered in regards to it’s impact on the primary mission of the sheriff’s office, the protection of unincorporated Santa Clara County? Does the Board of Supervisors have the ability to say the sheriff should run any new contract acquired — along with how it will be supported, staffed, and impact on the overall primary mission — by the taxpayers via the Board of Supervisors to ensure the integrity of the office is maintained?

This story was removed from NBC,  as I said, you can search “San Jose CHP Santa Clara Contract and the link now leads to an error page. There seems to be little to no reporting of such a critical issue in the immediate local media. It’s a little concerning to me what is going on behind closed doors here. The only source remaining for this story that I have been able to find is out of San Francisco and it has minimal information. I feel a little like a conspiracy theorist these days but you would think that the immediate local media would report on a solution being discussed and moved forward legislatively for an ongoing issue the public has been concerned about.

It seems that every 3 steps forward are met by a potential for somewhere between 2 to 4 steps backwards with this sheriff.  There are to many questions, to many concerns about the current contracts, staffing impacts, quality of leadership, stability of the office… and now the sheriff is bringing on more work. At a point where the distrust in Laurie Smith’s ability is at an all time high and growing.