Report highlights deputy firings for misconduct at Santa Clara Co. Jail

A new report released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office on Friday shines light on the number of deputies fired or disciplined for misconduct over the past six years at the jail.

The report featured 83 sustained internal affairs investigations from 2010 to 2015, meaning the complaints against deputies and civilian jail workers were found to be true. Of these investigations, 22 deputies were terminated and 27 were suspended.

“It really is a small number of people who acted in a criminal manner, allegedly in a criminal manner, and not indicative of the work the staff does,” Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said.

The most notable offenses include 12 off-duty officers who were arrested for driving under the influence, 10 who were disciplined for use of force, and eight who were engaging in inappropriate or sexual behavior with current or former inmates.

The report raises questions for LaDoris Cordell, Chairperson for the Blue Ribbon Commission. The oversight committee was created following the beating death of inmate Michael Tyree in which three Santa Clara County deputies were arrested in the Fall of 2015.

“We don’t’ have the whole picture,” Cordell said. “For example, we don’t know how many complaints have been launched that weren’t investigated.”

Cordell said the information needs to be put into context. The report does not indicate whether the deputies are new hires or veteran employees and it shows inconsistencies with the discipline for the same violations.

“What concerns me is that I don’t understand the logic or the reasoning behind all the kinds of discipline where some people are terminated for driving under the influence and others are not,” Cordell added.

She said the report has persuaded her even more that the jail operations need independent civilian oversight.

There was only one sustained complaint against an officer in 2015, but that number does not include pending cases like the one involving the deputies arrested for Tyree’s death. The sheriff’s office said there were 65 use of force complaints in 2015, 36 of which are still being investigated.

“In law enforcement generally, we really need to evaluate our hiring practices and see, is there something we can do better,” Smith added.

The Blue Ribbon Commission will bring their concerns and questions to the sheriff at a meeting on Saturday, Jan. 9. It will start at 11:00 a.m. at the Board of Supervisor’s Chambers in San Jose. The meeting is open to the public.