Activist groups ask supes to audit Alameda Co. Sheriff's budget

By Bay City News Service

About two dozen speakers from several activist groups asked the Alameda County Board of Supervisors today to conduct an audit of the Sheriff's office, saying that's budget has increased at the same time that the county's jail population has decreased.

Zaineb Mohammed of the Oakland based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights said, "We want increased transparency over how Sheriff Gregory Ahern is spending his money."

Mohammed said activists groups, which include the Justice Reinvestment Coalition, also are concerned about Ahern's cooperation with federal immigration officials and allegations that inmates at the county's jails are mistreated and are subjected to unsanitary conditions.

Mohammed said the speakers at today's meeting in Oakland want to know why the Board of Supervisors keep voting to increase the sheriff's budget even though the county's jail population has decreased over the past 10 years.

She said if an audit finds that the Sheriff's office isn't spending its money wisely the Board of Supervisors should transfer some of the office's funds to other departments that focus on jobs, healthcare, housing and education.

Judith Stacey of the California Sanctuary Campaign and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), said she wants to know where the Sheriff's money is going and to stop the office's cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

She said Ahern "answers to almost no one."

Several speakers also urged the Board of Supervisors not to approve receiving a $1 million grant the Sheriff's office was awarded by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday to hire more deputies.

Board of Supervisors President Wilma Chan told the speakers that board members couldn't comment on their request for audit of the Sheriff's office today because the matter wasn't on their agenda.

Ahern, who wasn't at the meeting, admitted in a phone interview afterward that the county's inmate population decreased in 2011 following a statewide effort to reduce the state's prison population he said it's increased in recent years to a current average of 2,500 inmates a day and is 
trending upward.

However, Ahern didn't say what the inmate population was 10 years ago.

Ahern said that in addition to the recent growth in the inmate population his department's budget has increased because of cost of living pay hikes for its 1,000 sworn officers and 650 staff members and other increased operating costs.

Ahern said the Sheriff's office does cooperate with ICE but he said it provides the same inmate status information to that agency as it does to the general public.

He said, "We treat everybody the same."

Ahern said that if the Board of Supervisors approved receiving the $1 million federal grant he will use it to hire eight new deputies.

He said four of those deputies would be assigned to his office's transit crimes unit, which patrols AC Transit buses, BART other rail agencies and high-crime areas along the Interstate Highway 880 corridor.

Ahern said the other four deputies would be assigned to his office's youth and family services bureau to provide various services to people in need.