Santa Clara Co. Sheriff deputies allege spike in workplace injuries

Days before November’s general election, and a political divide between two Santa Clara County deputy’s unions has deepened. This, after the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, representing roughly 400 patrol deputies, filed a complaint with Cal-OSHA. It alleges workplace injuries have spiked since 2016 costing the county more than five million dollars annually. And that members don’t have proper illness and injury prevention programs in place.

“We’ve been raising these issues for quite a while. but there’s been no action. There’s been no discussion on how do we address these. And the only alternative we found was to get OSHA involved,” said DSA interim president Roger Winslow.

Sheriff Laurie Smith is locked in a tightly contested run-off battle for re-election against her one-time undersheriff John Hirokawa. With undecided voters crucial, Smith had staffers issue a statement late Tuesday afternoon saying in part, “This Cal-OSHA claim on its face appears to be more about making political points than collaboration for workable solutions to challenges which every law enforcement agency faces in 2018.” Smith’s loyal subordinates are on the attack.

“This is dirty politics. This is how dirty politics can get. And it’s unacceptable,” said Lt. Amy Le, president of the 800 member Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association.

The men and women work inside the jails, are separate from the DSA, and are on the other side of the voting aisle. She says she was blinded-sided by the OHSHA complaint, and feels the filing is an attempt to sway voters to oust the sheriff..

“He would have sit down and talked to me and asked me about it. He never did. He never talked to my board or my members,” said Le. Countered Winslow, “It was absolutely necessary to try to get this address. It’s been too many years waiting and we need to start it now.”

Cal-OSHA sent a letter saying the division has not determined if the alleged hazards exit. But it says the sheriff’s department must investigate, and report back findings in 14 days. That puts the response deadline, on Election Day.