The parallels to the Eugene Craig shooting by Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office can’t be ignored in this morning’s story in the Mercury News. In Saratoga, a sergeant and deputies harassed the homeowners for nearly an hour banging on doors and windows, then repeatedly tried to break into the house, ultimately busting through a garage door, confronting and killing a man who is alleged to have been defending his home in fear. The sheriff has remained ironically silent on the shooting. It should be noted when the sheriff feels her or her office’s actions can be justified in the public, she has no problems promoting those justifications in the media. They have tried to repeatedly float the rumor through various back channels that there was some potential threat deputies were addressing. I do not know if this is true or not, but if we are to assume that rumor is at all true, the incident should have looked something more like this one:
Say what you want about the personal ethics of SJPD and various individuals, good or bad, but this is the outcome of an agency that takes policy seriously and trains their personnel. It is the outcome from an agency that didn’t drop its hiring standards in the worst moments and pretend candidates weren’t avoiding their agency like the plague. It is the outcome from an agency that, while they may have political promotions, still promotes people who know their jobs well enough to make better decisions on the street, and promotes on qualifications and experience rather than dropping to the very bottom of a brand new list to promote someone only because they do political favors for the leadership and have acquired none of the skills it takes to manage and make the leadership decisions that law enforcement may encounter at any moment.
The decisions law enforcement can be forced to make are among the most difficult that can be made under the most pressure a person can imagine. A sergeant is the person who will be forced into the situation of making the decision on how to handle a situation like this – and it is critical they have the all the experience, knowledge, training and internal support systems possible to make the best decision they can under these types of circumstances. Laurie Smith has reached a point where she neither provides nor assures any of these with any intention in her leadership or practices.
Voters need to decide when law enforcement shows up in their neighborhood or at their grandparent’s home to manage a crisis, what outcome do you want to feel the peace officers who show up will be trained to seek: That of Eugene Craig’s, or of this latest incident in San Jose’s jurisdiction?
This is why training, policy, and developing experience in our law enforcement agencies matter. If we want change, if we want better if we want black lives, blue lives, really to ultimately be able to say all lives matter and mean it rather than poke each other with it, these are the changes we must demand and more importantly see happen, not just be told they exist. Something that Sheriff Laurie Smith, even after more than 40 years in law enforcement, willfully refuses to acknowledge as she proved on Friday.