The Cost of Sheriff Laurie Smith’s Political Farce

2014 was about endorsing Laurie Smith’s opponent, votes of no confidence, trying to let the public know new leadership was desperately needed at the sheriff’s office that things were going downhill fast.

Slightly 2 years later we’ve had 4 deaths in the jail, one in our cities, seen the sheriff launch an attack on a renown civil rights figure at a pretend Blue RIbbon Commission and now a hunger strike and the DSA speaking out in support of the inmates who are on a hunger strike because half the “fixes” we’ve heard about the past year have likely been lies. We haven’t heard from the CPOA, and with the sheriff’s candidate select, Amy Le, as president of the union, we don’t expect to hear from them in any manner that offends Laurie Smith regardless of how the members of the union see this situation. That’s what you get when you vote for someone to fight for pre-shift snacks while the walls are falling down around you. At a time when you are most in need of a union leader to establish and hold your position, she’s gone into hiding. Told you to ask the DSA about those claims that Le & the sheriff would work together, but some people have to learn the hard way for themselves… again and again and…

I’m not sure what else has to happen for Laurie Smith to be addressed. She’s been thrown out of the Medical Examiner’s office after doctors alleged misconduct on her part and all is silent on that. She’s had a deputy kill a homeowner during a welfare check and she has done everything she can to throw up mud around that story progressing. She’s had 3 people die in her jails… at least three people… under questionable circumstances. The demands to step down would be deafening in any other community. Some communities simply getting 90+% of the staff to vote No Confidence has been enough to demand leadership step down.  We’re drowning in tragedy and our media and Laurie Smith’s elected shills are still trying to build the fort up to protect her or pretend she’s not really committing any offense by hiding information on recent incidents.

Let me say this one more time – what is happening in the jails and in enforcement solely rests on the shoulders of the sheriff. Yes there are some bad deputies and those that committed wrongs own those wrongs in every manner necessary and appropriate. But the reality is that if the sheriff ran the ship half as tight as she claims almost none of these problems would have happened. Tyree probably wouldn’t have allegedly been beaten to death by rookies with no supervision and ineffective training. Matyssik probably would have been released into caring hands had there been a strong policy, an engaged management from lieutenants on up, and accountability at all levels to follow that policy. Roches might be alive if there had been a competent, trained lieutenant who wasn’t clueless as to how to conduct a cell extraction of a near catatonic inmate who was passively resisting and could have directed the extraction in a manner that didn’t violate every training and policy standard you could think of.

The lawsuits that the sheriff has accumulated over the past couple years are daunting in their financial implications —

  • an ADA suit,
  • the Prison Law Office suit,
  • the suit for Tyree’s family,
  • suit for Matyssik’s family,
  • suit for Roches family.
  • multiple suits by inmates,
  • lawsuit by a former cadet who was beaten by a training officer,
  • a lawsuit by the deputies for Pay Jobs,
  • a lawsuit listing 3 to 30 potential individual deputies due to  hostile workplace, civil rights violations, and illegal acts on the part of the sheriff,
  • at least one suit, maybe two, rose from the Box of Rocks letter that someone inside the county recently informed me they’re paying to go away,
  • and don’t forget the lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and the sheriff’s inaction.

14 at minimum that I’m aware of, virtually all of them with a solid basis, and that’s just scratching the surface. The Rochee, Tyree, and Matyssik cases could cost as much as $10M apiece if recently settlements are any indicator — $30M dollars.  I’ve little doubt that the Craig family will be adding another approximately $10M to that number. I think if Dave Cortese has a wit of integrity he publicly outlines the amount of each lawsuit payout and settlement from the sheriff over the past 10 years and each current lawsuit the county faces involving the Sheriff’s Office.

We’re looking at 10’s of millions of dollars to be handed out just because of the sheriff’s actions or inactions in the last few years. And we can’t forget the recent court loss where now former deputies roughed up a motorist they had pulled over. It’s bad that it happened, but worse was the sheriff’s judgement is so poor as to hire one of these former deputies and pay him to teach car stops to cadets at our academy. That’s our sheriff, rather than admit something is wrong, she doubles down and extends the failure into the future.

And now we have a hunger strike in our jails. After a year of listening to the sheriff tell us how much she’s done, we’re finding out she’s done very little outside what she can haul in front of the media for positive press. Even the simple things appear to have gone by the wayside. We’ve essentially paid for all the talking points she repeat ad nauseum in her next campaign. Don’t get me wrong, some things were good, like the jail cameras. But even those, we’re still ignoring that there is no real security to her system and that storage procedures are less than comforting given the lack of integrity she and her leadership have shown. As the Box of Rocks letter and PG&E incident CAD reports showed us, if she can delete or otherwise hide evidence to her benefit and deny it’s existence, she will.

Yes, training and effective oversight costs money, taxpayer money. I have to ask you taxpayers — are you okay with the myriad of lawsuits being filed, and quietly settled and shunted off, that will ultimately cost you far more than the training, staffing and oversight would have? Costs which you will still have to incur should the problems be truly corrected.

There are places around the country, and even here in the bay area that have demanded law enforcement leadership step down for only a small portion of the failures we’ve seen here in Sheriff Laurie Smith’s office. Yet this community? Nothing. One of your own was killed in a welfare check and no one even seems to be interested in what failed so catastrophically to allow that to happen? Not even our sheriff seems very interested in anything more than throwing out countermeasure flares. What kind of leader has a hunger strike on their hands and runs to the nearest Salvation Army (of which she is or has been on the Board of Directors at least during 2014) and does a story about how she’s donating the food her ungrateful inmates are refusing.

I have to wonder… all those Saratoga politicians that endorsed the sheriff, where is your demand for answers for your community from the sheriff you contract to keep your community safe? Why aren’t you contacting those you elected in Saratoga to ask them what they’re doing about this and to ensure it doesn’t happen again? http://www.saratoga.ca.us/council/ Or are we as a whole just going to let the sherif stuff another body into her closet and pretend it doesn’t stink?

I’ve been contacted by several people now who have told me there are hundreds of pounds of wasted food every day and that efforts to suggest donations have been met in one of two ways — with a deaf ear, or concerns about lawsuits should the food be mishandled at some point in the process and someone getting ill. But the sheriff needs good press, so what better time to take the oft rejected suggestion and make it her own.

At some point in time, something has to change that will make things better. The only thing that can change at this point is to get rid of the sheriff that has done everything she can to shore up her public image while standing on the backs of those who rely on her or who would try to shed light on the truth.  We didn’t have to do this, we could have elected a new sheriff in 2014. We could have noted the stilted slogans and desperate bid to demean her own staff. We didn’t. Voters chose this and it is time that the community stand up and demand the sheriff submit her resignation so we can truly being to fix the problems that exist and not just fund creating a pretense for an incompetent sheriff to win yet another term.

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2 thoughts on “The Cost of Sheriff Laurie Smith’s Political Farce

  1. Thus is not the first time inmates have sued the county for issues related to the welfare fund. ( https://www.fenwick.com/media/pages/inmates-of-santa-clara-county-jails-file-class-action-lawsuit-to-enjoin-the-department-of-corrections.aspx ) here’s some more information ( https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2009/apr/15/california-class-action-suit-reinstates-15-million-illegally-8232siphoned-from-county-jail-inmate-welfare-fund/ )

    The way things are being ran around here with money this is going to happen again and again and again.

    Just follow the money. Not being used the right way.

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    • Until the vote out the sheriff and vote out the current Board of Supervisors who nod their head and offer a blind stare whenever real problems arise, this county is stuck with these problems.

      Many of the problems that have come to a head have been repeatedly investigated by various sources. Nothing has ever been done to change them. A civil grand jury pointed out the camera issues in 2007 – the county failed to do anything for *years* and now, magically, the sheriff comes up with a solution overnight when the problem is at crisis level.

      They’re lazy and spend their efforts and our money on window dressing. While we have lots of really cool “offices” and “commissions” the infrastructure of the county is crumbling.

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