Oakland city council urges audit of the Alameda County Sheriff

Image 1 of 2

The Oakland City Council on Tuesday joined a chorus of lawmakers and civil rights activists who are calling for an independent audit of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, following a 2 Investigates report where a female inmate gave birth in a jail cell, among other allegations.

The move is mostly symbolic as the city does not control the purse strings of the sheriff, but Oakland has many people who are affected because many of its citizens end up in Santa Rita Jail, which the sheriff oversees.

The council unanimously passed a resolution urging the Alameda County Supervisors to pay for an independent financial and performance audit of the sheriff, especially since the jail population has been doing down and the sheriff's budget keeps going up. The Ella Baker Center and other civil rights organizations held a rally outside City Hall on Tuesday evening carrying signs that bore the hashtag #AuditAhern. 

Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas’ request for the audit follows a 2 Investigates report that detailed the alleged mistreatment of women at Santa Rita Jail, including the story of a woman who gave birth in a jail cell after she said deputies ignored her cries for help. The councilwoman also noted the 33 in-custody jail deaths since 2013, a fact highlighted in an East Bay Express story titled, “The Most Dangerous Place in Alameda County,”

A spokesman for Richard Valle, the president of the Board of Supervisors, said that a smaller audit of jail programs is already underway and that the supervisors would likely even consider this larger scale audit until the results of the current one come back. 

Women sue Santa Rita over humiliating treatment; sheriff says facility is 'best big jail in the nation' 

In March, Sheriff Gregory Ahern told 2 Investigates that he welcomed any audit. His spokesman, Sgt. Ray Kelly, added that the sheriff’s budget is ballooning because of the rising costs of housing inmates, and paying employee salaries and benefits. Kelly said a financial audit will likely find that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office actually needs more money. Last month, Ahern decided to close the Glenn E. Dyer Jail in Oakland as a cost-cutting measure.

Ahern also took issue with the women complaining about mistreatment, telling 2 Investigates that he  runs “the best big jail in the nation.” Ahern also pointed to sheriff’s department data showing that the majority of deaths were a result of suicide or natural causes. And the data also shows the number of deaths has been trending downward.

And in a statement made last week, Kelly stated: “We welcome any audit. We are audited routinely by multiple entities. We stand by what we said previously.”

The Oakland City Council resolution echoes similar requests made by Calif. Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and the Berkeley City Council.