Special meeting called over tear gas use in Santa Clara County jails

A special meeting was called after a recent KTVU investigation revealed Santa Clara County is the only county in the Bay Area to use tear gas in its jails. 

The meeting of the Community Correction and Law Enforcement Monitoring Committee, known as CCLEM, will meet Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors chambers. The body makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. 

Co-chair Walter Wilson told the supervisors at their last meeting in late August that his committee was led to believe that the tear gas would only be used for riot-type situations in the jail.

A military equipment purchase report, however, shows that Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies have used tear gas 17 times in the last year, mostly when people did not comply with commands, including when those in custody refused to take their medication or dress out for court.

"This is alarming to us, this is an eye-opener," Wilson told the supervisors. "The community should have a right to weigh in on this. This is a very different scenario than we were led to believe." 


Santa Clara County's use of tear gas at jail halts military equipment purchases

Santa Clara County uses tear gas in its jails, the only Bay Area facility to do so, a KTVU investigation has found. Its use has halted further purchases of more military equipment.

Shortly after Supervisor Susan Ellenberg raised questions in June about the use of tear gas – and whether deputies were using all de-escalation techniques before deploying it – an independent auditor found deputies were using it appropriately and within policy. 

Despite that, jail reform advocates, like the ACLU, Silicon Valley De-Bug and the Asian Law Alliance, have called its use inhumane.

The Sheriff's Office is not allowed to buy any more military equipment, including the tear gas, until the Board of Supervisors votes on the issue, which has been delayed twice; the re-scheduled meeting is set for Sept. 19. 

The CCLEM meeting will be held in the Board of Supervisors chambers at 70 W. Hedding Street in San Jose.