I’ve been waiting to see if any media source would put out the actual link for the public to this “report” Sheriff Laurie Smith had done for herself. I wanted to see just how much of a puff piece it actually was for the sheriff. I finally had the few minutes in my insane schedule of late to sit down this AM and dig up the report for myself. You know people, you really should check out the resources of the Board of Supervisors website if you want to know anything about what your county is really doing (or not doing) for you. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on it over the past few years and what they say to your face is not always the entirety of what they put in writing.
Cindy Chavez defended the report in the media and 4 supervisors voted to accept the report as fact and reality without batting an eyelash at the waste of taxpayer dollars and the fact that Harvey Rose Consulting (HRC), a known and respected voice in public sector management, is struggling to get a real audit done despite the sheriff’s and CPOA’s efforts to divert them from facts, reports, policies, and the ability to view in practice efforts. The supervisors have failed at all levels, as I am led to understand, to lend the support of their role in the jails management structure to ensure HRC can effectively utilize the funding they’ve been given to do the job they’ve been hired to do.
This report literally (and I am using this in the real sense of the word, not the millennial hyperbolic sense) doesn’t get past page two before it states this is a pat on the back for the sheriff on page and an essential ego boost for the Board of Supervisors funded by Laurie Smith:
“This summary is not meant to be a gap analysis of what is wrong. It is meant to provide a perspective on the personal commitment, the thousands of hours of time and the millions of dollars that have been invested by Sheriff Smith, the Board of Supervisors…in improving the jail and the environment for staff and inmates.” – G.A.R. Consulting
In other words, we don’t know or really care what is wrong, just that someone has done something of unknown real value in closing the gaps that they want you to know about. Gee, thanks, I’m glad my $75000 was spend so well!
The other point of interest for me was the oversight mechanism. I found that issue on page 47. The issue of installing some form of oversight mechanism was immediately attacked as a kneejerk reaction of the public to a catastrophic incident setting the tone that there was no management or oversight issue that really offered any significant impact to what happened when Michael Tyree was beaten to death. The report seems to ignore the face that Laurie Smith immediately abdicated responsibility for oversight, eliminating the compliance unit that reviewed incidents and policies in her second year in charge, then upon being sworn-in in 2015, removing the enforcement mechanism that had been the only remaining oversight within a month, with no cross over training, and no independent oversight in place. It took less than 6 months for people to start dying. Why? Training officers weren’t doing their jobs, or worse, had been put into primary assignments that took them away from their training responsibilities, there was a single sergeant on duty for the Main Jail the night of the murder, there were 3 rookie deputies put together without supervision into the most difficult assignment at the worst hours. At least one of the deputies had a history of abusive interactions with inmates.
Oversight would have stopped any, maybe all of these situations. Now to be fair civilian oversight may not have caught some of these issues until after the fact – like putting unsupervised, poorly trained rookies into a situation that could make the best of people fail over time. Who takes responsibility for that? Why do we keep looking at all the things the sheriff has done to fix the problem while ignoring all the things she did to create them?
Even this report continues to double down on efforts that are high risk practices – like leading the people to believe that the Corrections Deputies are fully sworn and trained law enforcement and entitled to be called “deputies” without caveat because they did a background check. They are not. It is a dangerous precedent to lead the public to believe that correctional staff is the same as enforcement staff. This is an effort the CPOA has been behind for years now – to be considered fully sworn deputies without having to do the training and work. Laurie Smith has repeatedly over the years pandered to the CPOA that if they back her she’ll give them enforcement jobs – which she has done over the years. Even having corrections personnel go out into the public to attempt to recover a potentially violent inmate they had accidentally released some years back. Allowing them to do compliance checks on AB109 early releases – notoriously one of the most dangerous enforcement roles out there – having to face down an uncompliant parolee that doesn’t want to go back to jail. Today their union board and the sheriff work together to undermine audits and future oversight – because they have literally become the stereotype Laurie Smith painted them as last election – unwilling to face accountability and only looking to pad their benefits, big and small, potentially at the public’s expense.
I’ve only read parts of this report, but I think that the public needs to read it and see it for what it is – an attempt to undermine oversight in conjunction with the CPOA’s efforts to continually assault the Board of Supervisors at every meeting about how they know how to do their job without oversight. If they knew how to do their job so well, explain to me the grand storm that has resulted in a jail system that had begun to look like a 3rd world country under their alleged care and expertise.
If you want to read the report yourself, you can find it here. I warn you, for anyone looking at this with an eye beyond Laurie Smith’s ego, it can get outrageously laughable — or infuriating.
You can find some of the past legitimately offered reports linked here in my blog post highlighting ongoing improvements in the jails prior to 2011 and documenting the ethical and structural collapse that began with Laurie Smith.