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Sacramento supervisors delay weakening oversight of sheriff after public pressure mounts

Is the Sheriff acting legally, supervisor asks

Sacramento County First District Supervisor Phil Serna suggests more time for council to learn if Sheriff Scott Jones had the legal authority to lock out Inspector General, Rick Braziel, Tuesday, October 30, 2018, during a county supervisors meeting.
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Sacramento County First District Supervisor Phil Serna suggests more time for council to learn if Sheriff Scott Jones had the legal authority to lock out Inspector General, Rick Braziel, Tuesday, October 30, 2018, during a county supervisors meeting.

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Tuesday rebuked Sheriff Scott Jones by refusing to approve a plan that would weaken oversight of his department.

In a surprising shift away from supporting Jones, Supervisors Sue Frost and Susan Peters joined with other board members in a unanimous vote to postpone approval of a revised contract for the inspector general that would limit the role to mostly auditing, review and community relations functions.

Currently, the inspector general has leeway to conduct independent investigations on a variety of issues including instances of deputy-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.

The vote comes during a prolonged battle between some board members and Jones after Jones barred Inspector General Rick Braziel from access to department facilities and personnel in late August. The lockout came days after Braziel released a report critical of the May 2017 deputy-involved shooting of an emotionally-troubled black man, Mikel McIntyre, in Rancho Cordova.

Braziel’s report questioned whether deputies needed to continually use deadly force during the encounter, in which one deputy fired 18 shots across lanes of Highway 50. Braziel suggested increased training for deputies.

A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed in the case.

Jones has been adamant that Braziel was not trustworthy and would not have his access restored. Jones previously told the board during a Sept. 11 meeting that “any ongoing dialogue about renewing his contract is just silly.”

Tuesday, Jones revised that position, telling the board he would “whole-heartedly support” bringing Braziel back under the new terms, which he had crafted with Sacramento County Executive Navdeep Gill.

Supervisor Phil Serna voiced disapproval of the proposed contract, saying allowing a reduced role for the IG would be “Kabuki theater” without real oversight.

Speaking after the meeting, Jones repeated his denial that he barred Braziel access because of the critical report. Jones said the lockout was because the “loose language” of the contract allowed “pressure from one or more board members or a reporter” to force Braziel to investigate the McIntyre case.

“I knew exactly what (the inspector general) was intended to be and I’ve seen how it’s kind of morphed,” Jones said. “It was inevitable that we would tighten up the language.”

Public commentators expressed concerns about the proposed scope of work for the IG, but support of the supervisors’ decision to delay approval.

“I think they did the right thing today by postponing it,” said Aliane Murphy-Hasan of the Sacramento NAACP. “My hope is that the sheriff is not sitting at the table” for future discussions of the role, she said. “Why is he there? Who writes their own contract and job description?”

The board will discuss the inspector general’s contract again on Dec. 4.

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