The Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved a $106 million request by the sheriffs department to fund the hiring of up to 265 new deputies during a lengthy meeting on Tuesday afternoon. The narrow, 3-2 decision, was decided by Supervisor Richard Valle, a vote that stunned progressives and police accountability activists. On major issues concerning the sheriff’s department, Valle has often cast opposing votes.
Valle offered few words behind the reasoning for his tie-breaking vote other than to preface his decision by reading from a non-partisan consultant’s report that recommended increased staffing at the sheriff’s department in order to offer better services to inmates suffering from mental illness.
Valle pushed to add a clause in the motion to direct the sheriff to begin reducing the number of mentally ill inmates at Santa Rita Jail over the next three years.
The surprising vote by Valle, which broke a 2-2 tie, met immediate reaction from the public. During time reserved for public comment on items not on Tuesday’s agenda, a number of speakers from earlier in the day returned to blast Valle. But Valle, who also serves as board president, repeatedly cut off several speaker’s time once it became clear they were rehashing the sheriff’s department item.
The $106 million doesn’t exist.-Supervisor Wilma Chan voting against the sheriff’s proposal to hire additional deputies.
Alameda County Supervisors Wilma Chan and Keith Carson both opposed the expenditure to hire additional deputies. Chan was vehement in her stance, which comes at a time when the county is looking at $72 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year that is almost assuredly much larger due to covid-19.
“The $105 million doesn’t exist,” Chan said. She added, “This is not a good time to make this decision.”
While the votes by Supervisors Nate Miley and Scott Haggerty to fund additional deputies is not surprising – each of them is viewed on the board as the most supportive of Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern – Valle’s support appeared greatly informed by comments made Tuesday by Alameda County counsel Donna Ziegler.
The request by Ahern to seek to hire 265 new deputies, 84 non-sworn employees, and 107 behavioral health care workers at Santa Rita Jail follows civil rights lawsuit against the sheriff’s department alleging inadequate handling of inmates with mental and behavioral issues.
Ziegler advised the board they could choose to fully or partially fund the entire request by the sheriff. But voting against the request in light of lawsuits, “will not move you closer to resolution to any litigation you are facing,” she added.
In effect, while the sheriff’s funding request has many detractors in the community, the funding proposal was created to satisfy lapses in the sheriff’s department’s ability to serve mental ill inmates.
“The problem that is designed to be fixed, will not go away,” Ziegler told the board. In addition, Ziegler advised the board that plaintiffs in civil rights lawsuit could use opposition to hiring more deputies and other employees against them, and possibly seek an injunction against the county , Ziegler said.
A number of speaker asserted that Ahern, long-despised by progressives in Alameda County, was attempting to further an agenda to strengthen the sheriff’s department by increasing its ranks.
There was no agenda, Miley said. In fact, the conversation to hire more deputies has been discussed for more than a year and included a consultant’s report recommending additional deputies. “It just boggles my comprehension,” Miley said of the assertion made by several speakers. “It was not predetermined. We did a joint study and this was the result.”
The Board of Supervisors is now be tasked with trying to find large amounts of funding at a time when a dramatic shift in the county’s priorities due to covid-19 threatens to drain its reserves and precipitate devastating cuts to social safety net services and programs for the less fortunate in Alameda County. “Where are we going to get this money from?” Chan said.
@truckergal1, here’s why:
1. To evict the two unarmed families, the sheriff sent deputies on a pre-dawn raid decked out in riot gear, armed with automatic rifles, and backed up by a military-style armored vehicle and helicopter air support.
2. 80 people have died in Ahern’s custody since he took office in 2007, a number that includes 18 suicides and 14 deaths ruled accidental. Most of the deaths were natural, Ahern pointed out, and there have been fewer in recent years. Yet between 2015 and 2018, Alameda County paid $4.6 million to resolve lawsuits arising out of five in-custody deaths.
3. Between 2015 and 2018, 41 civil rights lawsuits against the office cost Alameda County $15.5 million in settlements and judgments—the highest amount incurred by any Bay Area law enforcement agency during that time, according to the East Bay Express.
4. Allegations in some recent lawsuits depict a jail system that punishes rather than treats prisoners who need medical care. Mentally ill prisoners who say they were denied treatment and locked in isolation cells. A prisoner tased and beaten to death while suffering alcohol withdrawal. Women reportedly pressured to get abortions, and one woman forced to give birth on the cold concrete floor of an isolation cell in Santa Rita. (A sheriff’s spokesperson acknowledged at a press conference: “That incident actually did happen.”
5. John Oliver called Gregory J. Ahern one of the “worst Sheriffs in America”
6. In 2008, Ahern’s campaign donated $1,000 to support Proposition 6, a California ballot initiative that would have, among other things, prohibited releasing undocumented immigrants on bail or their own recognizance before trial if they were charged with a violent offense.
7. In November 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a $1 million grant to Ahern’s office under a federal program that prioritizes law enforcement agencies that cooperate with ICE.
The sheriff’s budget has increased by $146 million over the last 10 years despite significant drops in jail population, and fault the board of supervisors for a lack of oversight.
8. A group of attorneys filed a class action lawsuit on May 29 against Sheriff Gregory Ahern of Alameda County, California. About three-quarters of people held at Santa Rita Jail are in pre-trial detention: In other words, they have not convicted of a crime and should be presumed innocent. The state of California ended cash bail for low-level offenses in April, but the reforms don’t apply to all misdemeanor or felony charges.
9. Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern, as the county’s Director of Emergency Services, finds that, in the days immediately following the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, conditions of disaster or of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property arose as a result of civil unrest that has resulted in numerous acts of violence, … a curfew is necessary to preserve the public order and safety in the county.
People despise the sheriff? For exactly what reason? He’s trying to keep us safe. Also he has a program for at risk youth. What would they prefer to that?