Marcos Bretón

Sacramento, time for a gut check. Are you going to stand up to the sheriff?

Sheriff Scott Jones: “Well, we haven’t shot anybody on the freeway since.”

The Bee's Anita Chabria sat down with Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones two weeks after he locked out the department's inspector general to discuss oversight, accountability and the shooting of Mikel McIntyre. Sacramento County District Attorney
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The Bee's Anita Chabria sat down with Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones two weeks after he locked out the department's inspector general to discuss oversight, accountability and the shooting of Mikel McIntyre. Sacramento County District Attorney

If you’ve never been to a Sacramento County Board of Supervisors meeting, or if you’ve never concerned yourself with any item the board ever considered before, now is the time.

At 2 p.m. Dec. 4, in the the board chambers on 700 H Street, supervisors will confront an irresponsible sheriff who doesn’t think he should answer to anyone.

The board – five decent people elected by you – must prove that you matter more than Sheriff Scott Jones.

Susan Peters, Sue Frost, Don Nottoli, Patrick Kennedy and Phil Serna must prove to you that they will not be bullied by Jones.

They must stand up for a principle that should never be in question: That no one, not even an elected sheriff, is above reproach.

Opinion

This is a gut check, Sacramento. Who are we? What do we stand for?

We’re going to find out.

If you haven’t been paying attention, here is what is gong on: The county has an official called the “Inspector General.” The IG is charged with independently investigating fatal shootings involving deputies, deaths at the county jail, and accusations of abuse at the county jail, among other duties. The IG has been Rick Braziel, former Sacramento Police Chief and a national use-of-force expert, since 2015.

In August, Braziel filed a report questioning whether deputies used the best policies and practices when they killed Mikel McIntyre, an emotionally disturbed African American man. He was gunned down by deputies on the shoulder of Highway 50 in Rancho Cordova on May 8, 2017.

Braziel’s report was released in August and Jones lost it. He locked Braziel out of all of his buildings, meaning that Braziel could no longer do his job. Braziel’s contract with the county expired on Friday.

The right thing for Supervisors to do at this week’s meeting would be to begin the process of re-instating Braziel as IG, because he did nothing wrong. His report had one main purpose: To make recommendations designed to help deputies the next time they draw guns on a suspect.

What on earth is wrong with that? Why would the sheriff, or anyone else, object to the recommendations of a 30-year law enforcement veteran who is, as Braziel told me months ago, “trying to save lives.”

But, the sheriff did object. He called Braziel a layman, though one could argue that Braziel has a far more impressive resume than Jones. Jones claimed that Braziel drew legal conclusions in his report. He did not.

Read the report and find the passages where Braziel drew legal conclusions that only District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert can draw. You won’t find them.

Jones intimated that Braziel had some nefarious connection with Democrats in the legislature seeking to impose more limits on law enforcement. He provided no proof of this. It was a slime job out President Donald Trump’s playbook: Deflect, demean, and distract when unable to provide proof of an accusation.

But to his credit, Braziel has not fired back at Jones. Braziel hasn’t because what is at stake here is not personal. What makes this issue critically important to the public has nothing do with personalities.

This is about the county having an independent person reviewing when county deputies use deadly force. Why is this important? Because few societal guard rails are in place to prevent excessive use of force by Sacramento County deputies.

The county does not have a policy of equipping deputies with body cameras. Unlike the City of Sacramento, the county does not release dash camera videos when deputies use deadly force. Meanwhile, Schubert has never found that a law enforcement officer violated the law by killing a suspect.

Schubert cleared the three deputies who fired 28 shots at McIntyre. She brought in a consultant who claimed that deputies firing bullets across the busy highway at McIntyre were “reasonable and in line with contemporary police practices.”

If this is true – and I don’t accept it is – than God help us all.

McIntyre hit a deputy in the head with a rock and ran. He deserved to go to jail. His punishment was death. He was shot at least six times in the back as he ran away. He was having emotional issues, was on medication, was not in his right mind.

McIntyre’s family had called authorities twice the day he was killed. They were desperate to get him help. Deputy Gabriel Rodriguez was one of the responding officers who assessed McIntyre and let him go because they found he did not rate as a threat to himself or anyone else. Hold that thought.

Not long after that, Rodriguez was firing 18 bullets at McIntyre as he ran away. Rodriguez told investigators he perceived McIntyre as a deadly threat.

Wait, what? First he wasn’t a threat but then he was as a justification for deputies to kill him? Schubert’s office ignored this while clearing the officers.

Schubert’s office never has provided any checks and balances to law enforcement officers who use deadly force in the line of duty. She probably never will because, like most DAs, her close ties with law enforcement present natural conflicts of interests. The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Association gave her almost $70,000 for her re-election campaign.

No wonder Jones smirked and joked to my colleague Anita Chabria when she asked him about the fatal shooting.

You know what he said? ”Well, we haven’t shot anybody on the freeway since.”

Those are the words of a man who doesn’t care what you or anyone else thinks of him. That’s a terrible trait in a stock broker or a dentist. It’s a dangerous trait in a law enforcement leader in charge of officers who carry guns.

You would never hear Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn be so utterly dismissive. You would never hear any other local law enforcement leader talk this way. Only Jones does.

Hope for sober reflection within the sheriff’s department was dashed when Jones locked out Braziel. This department has had a string of fatal shootings and in-custody deaths in recent years. It has been the focal point of several multi-million-dollar lawsuits.

After the shooting of Stephon Clark in March, Sacramento Police encountered Black Lives Matter protestors many times without incident. The first night sheriff’s deputies encountered the same civil resistance, a protestor was hit by a deputy in his cruiser. Jones never apologized, and suggested – without proof – that his deputies encountered paid protestors.

Do you see a pattern here?

So now the Board of Supervisors decide. Are the supervisors going to let Jones get away with bullying them? Are you going to hold them accountable?

Are you OK with the Sacramento County sheriff behaving this way?

If you are not OK with it, then show up and make our voice heard. Or if you can’t do that, call the supervisors and encourage them to do the right thing.

Susan Peters is at (916) 874-5471. You can reach Sue Frost at (916) 874-5491. Both Peters and Frost have given pretty good impressions of people completely controlled by Jones. Or call Don Nottoli, (916) 874-5465, or Patrick Kennedy, (916) 874-5481, and encourage them to hold their ground. More Nottoli than Kennedy, but both have shown signs of buckling under the pressure that Jones has created.

Serna, (916) 874-5485, is the most resolute of the five. He’s against giving into Jones.

That’s because sometimes you must stand firm, even if it’s uncomfortable. No one is trying to control Jones’ department. This is about Jones’ department adopting some introspection after a deadly shooting. Introspection could save lives one day. A sheriff who smirks and makes bad jokes after a fatal shooting only creates the possibility of more bloodshed in the future.

Sacramento, what do we stand for?

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