Hunger Strike Ends, Sheriff Successfully Diverts Attention

It never fails, the sheriff is the hero. The media essentially ignores the onerous timeline, the lack of action by the sheriff during those many weeks that could have successfully diverted the entire incident and falls over as soon as she sends Beliveau out to make the promises she made months ago and told the public were already done deals — less solitary, more clothing, better hygiene. They now pass over the moot story that the sheriff chose to make a spectacle of herself calling the media to watch her donate food to the charity on whose board she sat on recently. she didn’t choose to resolve the issue, only say that she disagreed with what they had to say. Yesterday the DSA said enough, the inmates are right, you are not doing your job, sheriff,  and then the scrambling began. Once again: Yay, Sheriff, you made the same promises you’ve failed to keep now for years! We’re so proud of you! Please.

My question is this. The sheriff didn’t do it before the Blue Ribbon Commission when inmates were asking. She didn’t do it during or after the Blue Ribbon Commission though promised and in some cases claimed to be already done. We’re supposed to believe her now? Because…?

This is the problem, the sheriff, the entire elected complement of county officials don’t understand the term accountability and they haven’t’ had any accountability. They’ve ignored problems, glad handed those complaining, brushed off concerns and done whatever they want. When Flores started to make too much noise about cuts, the sheriff replaced him… and the problems have spiraled out of control since. The media, they’ve passed over every opportunity to do a comprehensive story on the long term right up to today, maybe even including today, we’ll see.

The standard cycle is crisis builds, media ignores it. Crisis bursts, media runs over. Sheriff hands them a cookie and tells them it’s all okay, and the media goes home gleefully grasping their cookie failing to notice nothing’s changed. This was today’s cookie, an annual event that inmate industries has had for years, now being touted as something different between inmates and deputies. Last time the media was invited was after they built the dog houses for Christmas in the Park during election time. The sheriff taking credit for the hard work deputies do to try to maintain successful working relationships in their environment despite the massive failures of leadership, policy, and accountability. All’s good boys and girls, now go on home, nothing to see here, the sheriff’s fixed everything. The media never follows up, there is never publicly demanded accountability for the sheriff. She just goes back to what she’s doing and in another year when this rises to the top again, all will be appropriately surprised. This happens in case after case after case. The media excuse? Well there’s no “blood in the water” so there’s no public interest. All the sheriff has to do is sweep up anything that might make the public take note and the media’s attention deficit kicks in to protect her.

After 2 justified shootings a few years ago, we pointed out that further training, equipment and support was necessary, to this day, after the shooting of an innocent man in his own home, nothing has been done to assess any of the three shootings in a manner that will improve response and capabilities.

Jail cameras and security has been a critical issue for more than a decade and documented publicly since 2006-2007 when the Civil Grand Jury pointed out the risks. They did it again a year later, and still the county took no action and neither did the sheriff when she took over.

The Inmate welfare fund has been an ongoing battle to make the sheriff treat the fund appropriately. She has lost lawsuits on the matter. The BRC pointed out that there were serious accounting concerns. Today, nothing has change since at least 2005.

The sheriff and Dave Cortese put forth this big plan to all but take over SJPD during the election in 2014, some weeks back when the San Jose City Councilmember revisited it was literally called ridiculous by our sheriff in a letter and completely ignored by the Cortese clan of supervisors who had unanimously, if I recall correctly, voted for the plan during the election. This level of blatant political pandering has become the norm. This is gross manipulation of public interest and every time it ends with a slap in the face to the voters and the media in the corner nibbling on their cookie.

Now, one last point. I had an interesting conversatios earlier with people who seems to think we should let these people rot, that the deputies have no business acknowledging the problems of the inmates, among other narrow minded thinking. I said it to this person and let me say it again. This is America. We have a constitution and it applies to each and every one of us, whether you like an individual or not. Our deputies proudly commit to protect not only our U.S. Constitution, but the Constitution of the State of California as well.

I also had a conversation with a deputy who seemed to be weighing the concept of “siding with inmates” as a negative. Let me be clear, no one is “siding” with anything more than a demand for the proper, appropriate, humane, and safe environment in our jails.

When our inmates are not being treated fairly, humanely, or with basic decency by our sheriff it is their job…their obligation to step up and say as such. They have done so now for three years and I have to say I’m damned proud of those deputies that take their commitment seriously enough to support a minimum standard, even for those they may not like or trust or respect due to crimes they’ve committed.

That is the kind of deputy we want and we should cherish and support in our communities. Our sheriff does not. Somehow, despite every effort on the part of the sheriff and our administration we continue to have a majority of deputies we can be proud of. I was forwarded a letter that was sent out to the DSA body. I actually received two, the other that was sent out by Roger Winslow today, but I’m going to post this one because they are similar in sentiment and subject, but this one falls in line with my thread of thought in this blog tonight.

Dear DSA Member,

Some of you have voiced your concerns over a recent statement Vice President Roger Winslow made to the media regarding a hunger strike in the jails. Roger’s statement was made with my approval and input. We do not take making such statements lightly and it is with the best intentions of the membership when we do. I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify some issues.

First and foremost the DSA does not align itself with the inmate population. The intent of the statement was to show the DSA understands the frustrations of those affected when the Sheriff is not held accountable and does not abide by rulings she does not agree with. We can share the frustration that exists when the Sheriff is allowed to operate in a vacuum, and not required to comply with the areas of reform that were identified in the aftermath of the tragic death of Michael Tyree, the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission and subsequent findings.

Although many of you feel we shouldn’t be speaking out on non-DSA, CPOA issues, these issues obviously have bleed over to the DSA. The Sheriff’s refusal to provide Tasers or load bearing vests to personnel is just a couple examples of her doing what she pleases, not taking our concerns or public safety and wellfare into account.

Our statement was not necessarily one of support for the inmates but was one of us voicing our concerns of the systemic failures of the Sheriff and her executive staff. You may not be aware but the issue of the hunger strike and requested reforms have been ongoing for over a month. The inmates attempted to meet and confer about the BRC reforms to be rebuffed and ignored. We as the DSA have experienced the same lack of concern from the Sheriff and her administration when we have brought forth public safety concerns such as the aforementioned tasers. The administration policy historically has been to ignore the situation rather than address the concerns and come to a mutually beneficial resolution. We as DSA members have the ability through grievance and arbitration to resolve our issues, whereas the inmates had to take more extreme measures to have their voices heard. We have included our voice that we are aware of the issues not unlike the TWO votes of no confidence that have still remained unresolved since 2014 despite OUR continued efforts to meet and confer.

Finally, many of our members have direct and daily contact with the inmate population. If you take note of the inmates statement, they highlight the exceptional job the deputies do, and their issues are with the Sheriff. We thought it would be best to take advantage of their statement to show the great job we all do. Regardless of what division you work in or what bargaining association represents you, we all wear the same uniform and the public can care less what Penal Code section you obtain your peace officer powers through. Roger tried to relay this to the media but it did not make the story.

The job we all do is very difficult and each area of law enforcement provides its own unique challenges. If the inmate population wants to recognize the great job deputies are doing, I think that fact deserves being pointing out.

In closing, please take the time to look past the headline and look at this underlying issue. I hope this clarified this misunderstanding and feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or concerns.

In solidarity,
Don Morrissey – DSA President