Ms. Smith Goes To Stanford

Either Laurie Smith is deliberately indifferent to or ignorant of basic law enforcement concepts or she’s senile. I’m at a loss to believe any experienced, intelligent, caring individual with this many years in law enforcement would continue to make these kinds of decisions. Her fourth floor administration is, frankly, out of their damned minds. They’ve officially reached the surreal with their gimmicks for positive attention and political spin with this latest “training” they introduced in the Mercury News. When I read some of this, my skin began to crawl knowing what I know about how Laurie Smith runs the Sheriff’s Office.

Can someone please explain to me how a law enforcement professional with 44 years of experience promotes implementing the Stanford Prison Experiment as her latest training tool to the public as if it is some kind of brilliant idea? Not as a “Here, study this experiment and understand how things went wrong,” but as a “we’re going to toss you in a cell for a bit with under-trained staff and barely plotted out instruction plans and see how it all goes.” Makes total sense right? I mean you can’t possibly learn from studying someone else’s mistakes, you have to make them yourself to truly get it. The only thing we can be thankful for is this a 12 hour time frame, but in case you forgot, this entire experiment came out of a desire to understand the dynamics at play.

How the local media did a story about this without even batting an eyelash in the direction of this disturbing study is impressive. If I was Robert Solonga, I might have been laughing, thinking she was joking, until I found out she wasn’t. I would have asked questions, lots of questions. He didn’t ask any questions about it: Who’s going to guard the “inmates”? What is the instructors’ specific training to develop and implement this type of an event? What is the staffs understanding of what went wrong with Stanford? What is the training plan? What is the goal and expected outcome of training? How deep will the event go into actually living like an inmate? Just hey – Biggest. Class. Ever!

I keep telling myself these can not be serious ideas that no one is questioning or concerned about, especially given Laurie Smith’s history. Then again, I look over the past decade and realize, these are deadly serious… with a potential emphasis on “deadly.” It wouldn’t be the first time Laurie Smith endangered people to make her point how great she is with her “progressive” ideas, after all, just getting the facility to conduct this “training” may have led to inmate deaths.

These same law enforcement “professionals” on our Fourth Floor have found it acceptable to misclassify mentally ill inmates into low(er) security areas without cameras only for them to commit suicide. It’s being alleged that Smith’s new Lieutenant in charge of Grievances may have ignored the complaints of the last suicide victim regarding medical and mental health needs that were being neglected.  If true, was it the incompetence of someone not trained to handle the very serious position they were put in or was it willfully done to help Smith clear a path to turning MJS into an impromptu training facility to “incarcerate” her new cadets? Did they cynically bet on the odds that the inmate wasn’t really going to harm themselves or have some other critical incident that could have endangered others as well? Sources are telling me it’s so, but we may never know the truth from Smith’s office. Either way, if my sources are accurate, these are the issues we need to be dealing with, not trying to reinvent the wheel with training that jails and prisons around the nation have refined so the sheriff can pretend to have a grand idea she believes no one has thought of before.

Part of the irony her is that Smith just last year made a big media splash by buying cameras “with her own credit card” (she was reimbursed, people) and now she can’t move the inmates out of this newly secure area fast enough. Initially she claimed it was for “money saving” measures, but the sheriff loves that excuse because YOU love that excuse. It’s nearly meaningless in light of how much taxpayers are ultimately bleeding for all these “cost savings” measures turned into lawsuits and death claims against the county.

And now people are dying again. All the outrage of Tyree appears to be spent, the public appeased with actions that appear to be increasingly meaningless, and Laurie Smith knows it. She knows if she can continue to keep the media from looking to closely and the increasing number of suicides and attempts, attacks on officers, and on inmates, no one will really care. And so far we continue to prove her right. Rest in Peace, Michael, the rest of us will as soon as we’re distracted with a good magic show.

Laurie Smith and her training issues have been a story in and of themselves. The last corrections academy she tried to short cut and failed to give them fire arms training as mandated by POST. She tried to use the grand fathered 2-tier system to cut training and pretend she could move new graduates into “officer” position with lower training requirements to save money and time. Now she has the added expense to put the entire graduated academy through a fire arms training program just to bring them to the POST approved training level. Mind you, this is an actual POST Commissioner trying to circumvent POST standards here.

Smith continues to create an environment where poorly trained and barely overseen instructors. The last enforcement academy at least one cadet was passed through after multiple remedial efforts. I guess we’re in the “three strikes, we’ll let you walk to first” training program here. My understanding is one of the largest failures of the cadet was addressing officer safety standards. I bet whomever is partnered up with this individual in the future will be thrilled by that.

These same “turn a blind eye” academy administrators and instructors will now be in charge of an incarceration period for our new cadets. So tell me, are we going to just put them in a cell with a book and let them wear a jail uniform for 12 hours? What will happen? How will the situation be controlled? How will the sheriff ensure there is an “experience” of value that meets the training goal? Who has she brought in as an expert to help develop this training? Or at they just going to hang around a cell, in an orange suit, get a couple bad meals and take naps? Maybe in their boredom they will find the hacksaw the three inmates used to escape just last year. Or one may hear and report “sawing” sounds only to be moved out of county to another jail facility to finish their 12 hours of the sheriff’s great experiment.

The sheriff is not known for her detailed efforts. That no one questions what she is planning here and makes me question pretty much everyone’s commitment to change here. I have to ask you, those reading this, has there been enough carnage yet to get you to haul yourself, family, and friends to a voting booth come June 2018? Or is it all something your still happy to leave in the hands of those who do show up and vote “Incumbent” for the non-partisan races or worse, actually go to vote for more of what we’ve got?

To go back around, I wonder, how does POST feel about this? I would be fascinated to hear if this is something she has even run by the the commission that she sits on. I can’t see any competent and responsible law enforcement officer or citizen oversight member in the US who understands what happened at Stanford not cringing at the suggestion of such “training” and not asking how role playing this can bring something better than sitting these cadets down and having experienced professionals explain to them how and why things went so badly and what professionals need to to do ensure in their day to day actions to prevent it from happening on their watch. For that matter, the latter seems like a much more effective and comprehensive means of getting these points across.

As if all this isn’t bad enough, add in the sheriff still hasn’t addressed she has instructors that have committed Code Reds against cadets, one which was injured so badly in a beating by an instructor that they’re suing the Sheriff’s Office according to several sources. Yes, that individual is still at the academy the last I was told, which was pretty recently. Another training officer who was actively involved in the texting scandal, but was “forgiven” and saw no discipline, is still in his training position. How do you teach accountability to another human being when you have repeatedly and continually failed to hold accountable those who have treated others as less than unless the issue became to public to contain or it personally benefitted your political goals?

This entire scenario is a recipe for disaster and I can’t believe someone on the County Board of Supervisors, at the very least, Joe Simitian, hasn’t lost their minds over this ridiculous idea. I expect the usual glazed look from Cortese and Chavez whenever they’re forced to hear things that don’t politically help them.

Change is good and if we want to see real change in the Sheriff’s Office, the first change needs to be kicking out the Sheriff and her entire Fourth Floor Ship of Obsequious Fools. We must have people who have, at minimum, critical thinking skills and ideas for the office that extend beyond Smith’s knee-jerk roundtable filled with bankrupt individuals committed to trying to create better optics for the sheriff.


3 thoughts on “Ms. Smith Goes To Stanford

  1. What is your background that entitles you to make such observations? Have you had hands on experience in operating a corrections facility?


    • Enough to know who Wes Johnson is and that Laurie Smith’s actions show she learned nothing from that incident the year before she came to work for the county. Nice try though. I have to admit, the 4th floor is getting creative with obscurities that most people under 65 won’t get. I guess we’re both showing our age!


      • Interesting comments from Wes and Casey. While not criticizing Mr. Johnson, I couldn’t agree more with Casey’s response.


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