Beneath the management of elected Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, the company that claims to serve the neighborhood with integrity and equity has as a substitute fostered an us-versus-them regulation enforcement tradition that breeds corruption and threatens the general public’s authorized rights and bodily security.
Over the past decade, the Sheriff’s Workplace misconduct has ranged from extreme pressure and neglect, to racial discrimination, to the unlawful recording of privileged attorney-client conversations, leaving in its wake lifeless our bodies, grieving households and dear lawsuits.
But the sheriff’s energy and price range proceed to develop. Slightly than completely examine the company, the county has rewarded it with ever growing sums of cash. This period of no accountability has gone on too lengthy, and each our district legal professional and county Board of Supervisors owe us higher.
The unlawful recording scandal is the newest instance. In August, a broadcast video confirmed a deputy admitting to a supervisor that he recorded personal conversations between detained youths and their attorneys — a flagrant violation of the constitutional proper to counsel and attorney-client privilege.
To her credit score, District Legal professional Nancy O’Malley investigated the deputy’s conduct and, after the invention of extra recordings, charged him with 4 counts of felony eavesdropping. Her workplace can be reviewing juvenile prosecutions referred by the Sheriff’s Workplace.
That is an applicable first step, however not almost sufficient. Investigating and charging solely the deputy caught on tape treats a symptom whereas permitting the underlying illness to flourish.
There’s each cause to strategy this scandal as one more in an extended line of systemic failures, one that may be a product of tradition and coverage slightly than the remoted acts of a rogue officer. At least, the general public deserves a wider and extra public investigation to know the complete scope of the unlawful conduct.
For one, the deputy himself steered that unlawful recordings are customary observe. Second, given the sheriff’s broad authority, there are a lot of methods by which this kind of surveillance may happen.
Legal professionals should usually communicate with their purchasers, each youth and grownup, in environments managed by the sheriff. If deputies pay attention in at workplace substations, they could use the identical observe for jail assembly rooms and telephone traces, and in courthouse holding areas. As Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods mentioned, “we have now to be on guard that it may be occurring anyplace at any time.” That’s the actuality that should information the district legal professional’s investigation.
The recording scandal can be additional cause for the Board of Supervisors to conduct an entire and public audit of the Sheriff’s Workplace, a demand the Ella Baker Heart for Human Rights has been making for over a yr. Over the past decade, Sheriff Ahern’s price range has grown by $144 million — hitting an unimaginable $443 million this yr — regardless of a every day jail inhabitants that has dropped by 45 p.c.
This huge expenditure has translated to extra deaths and abuse slightly than a better-run division.
Since 2015, 41 lawsuits in opposition to the Sheriff’s Workplace have price $15.5 million for civil rights violations that embody a string of in-custody deaths and abuse of prisoners.
There have been 33 in-custody deaths since 2013, and in June two prisoners died on the Santa Rita Jail in three days. That features the loss of life of Dujuan Armstrong, whose household nonetheless has not acquired an evidence from the Sheriff’s Workplace.
Furthermore, current experiences have detailed how county prisoners are malnourished and offered insufficient healthcare. In a single 2010 case, a person arrested for jaywalking and a previous warrant for DUI died in Santa Rita whereas affected by alcohol withdrawal.
Sheriff Ahern has additionally been complicit within the Trump administration’s draconian and racist anti-immigrant insurance policies, facilitating ICE detentions by publishing the discharge dates of undocumented prisoners and permitting ICE entry to private areas of county jails.
A full audit — and the transparency it will create — is step one towards actual accountability. In a county that prides itself on its progressive politics, and in a state often known as a pacesetter in felony justice reform, the general public deserves to know the way the sheriff is utilizing public funds to gas inhumane regulation enforcement that flouts the regulation and primary decency.
Jose Bernal is an organizer and advocate on the Ella Baker Heart for Human Rights in Oakland.