Nothing Is Changing in Laurie Smith’s Jails

I’ve been asked to put this up several times now. After digging a little, I decided to go ahead.

Dan Noyes of ABC7 did a story on yet another incident in our jails. He billed it as a retaliatory act against an inmate who claimed he was falsely accused of kicking a deputy in the head. Here’s the other piece of the story that was covered back in April, where deputies were attacked and depending on which report, at least one, possibly 2 deputies were injured seriously enough to be taken to the hospital to have their injuries checked and medically cleared. For the record, there was a brief report  by a 2nd string journalist of this story on ABC7 at the time as well, but it was mostly about how Sheriff Laurie Smith “famously” purchased cameras for the jails — this incident wasn’t caught on one though.

At the time it was alleged the inmate was drunk. Now this story has progressed from an inmate that was just involved in a violent altercation that injured two deputies and was facing felony assault charges to an inmate that was falsely accused and then beaten in revenge for something he says he didn’t do without mention of pruno, hospital trips or any other details filled out.

The video isn’t really clear on if the inmate grabbed a deputy or not, but it certainly sounds as if he did during the altercation, and given his recently history, extracting the deputy and securing the situation is a safety issue.

The inmate’s attorney says this was “100 percent a set up”. That the inmate passed a polygraph really is irrelevant, and they’re not allowed in a court of law for very good reason folks, they don’t really work very well and are easily beat. Even if he couldn’t pass it, it would be meaningless, because they also easily show false positives. But it makes a good line, doesn’t it? Of course at the same time it would take a true idiot to set up and exact a revenge beating, a plan involving quite a few deputies, for no reason whatsoever according to the inmate who said he didn’t assault another deputy, while they’re specifically filming the process. Deputies are on edge at the jails, they’re afraid to do anything untoward since Tyree and Roches died because, right or wrong, they risk being an instant target.

What I saw given the short clips provided, was less likely to be a “revenge beating” but yet another example of the failing training program of Sheriff Laurie Smith that still hasn’t been addressed after more than a year. A team whose individuals weren’t trained in effective weaponless defense tactics that can be successfully used in close quarters. Training like that takes time, effort and money, and we have report after report from source after source indicating the sheriff  and our Board of Supervisors really doesn’t care to make that kind of investment here. When you provide substandard training to those in an environment that can see explosive violence at the drop of a hat, you get substandard response.

We have years of evidence of this being an issue, but it’s not even mentioned as a possibility by the expert at hand. Just more “bad, bad deputy”. Frankly, yeah, cops make mistakes. They’re human, in this case, they’re poorly trained to do their jobs. But we’re going to assume, despite experts who have actually come into the jails and talked to inmates and deputies stating unequivocally that they don’t feel there is a culture of violence among the deputies in corrections, that this is just more bad deputies and not the bad policy, bad training, bad leadership failing all of us yet again.

Don’t get me wrong, if they have evidence not shown here that proves this was a revenge beating, but all means, they are accountable to the full force of the law. But this report comes across to me as more as an assumption of guilt of the officers at hand, than any real recognition that deputies have repeatedly gone to the public, to the press, to try to explain the risks that are involved with the sheriff’s lack of policy, lack of staffing, lack of training and the overall lack of commitment from the Board of Supervisors to hold the sheriff accountable for real improvements.

If the deputies didn’t engage in a revenge beating, if this was a failure of our system — we’ve continued the culture of failure by barely even acknowledging the problem that we’ve known about for I can’t even tell you how long.  I’ve been doing this at some level since early 2010, we’re about 8 weeks out from 2017. You do the math. Yet we as a community still choose to miss the point. The sheriff will throw these deputies under the bus, be hailed a hero yet again, and we’ll settle in to wait for the next time.

This incident shows training has not improved, despite Laurie Smith’s claims. The incident of the hunger strike proved that the sheriff, despite public promises otherwise, still has failed to address the use of segregation practices in any reasonable and real manner. The welfare check shooting in Saratoga shows the cracks in enforcement may be reaching critical mass — we don’t know, the sheriff hasn’t said a word, the media and community isn’t asking… two months later it’s almost like Mr. Eugene Craig never existed for any of us not directly involved.

But this story, as others prior, essentially ignores the level to which the sheriff is still failing. She’s had plenty of little PR events — donating food during the hunger strike, “pet therapy” events to show how much she really cares, using the annual inmate BBQ as PR to pretend she’s truly addressed the relationship between inmates and deputies when she hasn’t — those usually get coverage, but the hard questions for the sheriff that arise out of these incidents?  Why haven’t you released information on the Saratoga shooting? Why are you still using solitary confinement? What have you done to improve training needs after the Tyree & Roches deaths so deputies are less prone to use excessive force or make poor decisions in these types of situations? Those questions either don’t get asked or the sheriff is allowed to blow off the media and the media doesn’t nothing about it. It’s strange, the media here won’t even tell you that the sheriff repeatedly rebuffs simple questions, rejects FOIA/CPRA requests on a regular basis for invalid reasons, and actually pressures local media by refusing to provide information and access to news outlets that do unflattering stories.

Of course the sheriff isn’t going to directly respond to this case, but she as an elected official who has been under the spotlight now for more than a year for her poor practices, she has an obligation to provide the public to the generic answers regarding circumstances we’ve known need improvement for years now.

Has the media asked anyone about Carl Nuesel is adjusting to his new role as “Chief of Corrections”? Because it’s my  understanding, like the sheriff, he refuses to do anything regarding the jails that doesn’t directly involve being part of the PR campaign. I’ve been told that Ass. Sheriff Beliveau has been left to his own devices making decisions, implementing policies and procedures.  Beliveau is a man who is generally considered incompetent, mean-spirited, vengeful and lazy.  We’re seeing the results of that kind of care starting to burst the seams of our jails again, yet no one really seems concerned. Last time it resulted in the death of Michael Tyree followed shortly by the deaths of Walter Roches and Valdimir Matyssik. Weren’t those three enough?

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