The State Worker

Popular California corrections blog publisher dies from heart attack

Paco Villa blog founder Jeff Doyle
Paco Villa blog founder Jeff Doyle Courtesy Greg Doyle

The founder and chief contributor to a well-known, hard-edged blog that covers California correctional issues died suddenly last week from a heart attack.

Jeff Doyle, 55, was the principle voice of the Paco Villa Corrections Blog, which operated under the slogan, “Paco has your back!” Over the last decade it became a go-to source for prison and parole officers who wanted the latest news and gossip about their profession.

Mr. Doyle’s blog combined sometimes-juvenile humor, biting satire and hard-hitting commentary popular with the rank-and-file. It also drew the ire of labor leaders and state officials who took umbrage with the combative tone of Mr. Doyle’s writing and how they, or their policies, were sometimes portrayed on PacoVilla.

“He was a guy who did not like bullies,” said Mr. Doyle’s brother, Greg Doyle, who also was a regular contributor to the blog. “At a very young age he figured he could beat bullies with words, that words had a much greater impact than a punch.”

Born in Riverside, Mr. Doyle was a former California correctional officer and state parole agent who retired in 2009. He served on the board of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America and as a state vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

“Jeff was a loyal supporter of correctional peace officers and he was remarkably passionate about the services that officers provide. He was dedicated and committed to moving our profession forward and he did a wonderful job creating a platform that allowed correctional officers to engage with one another and express their views,” CCPOA President Chuck Alexander said in a statement. “(He) will be sorely missed and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

Mr. Doyle launched his blog in 2004 under the Paco Villa pseudonym during a time of growing unrest in the union following the retirement of iconic CCPOA founder and president Don Novey.

“Jeff stayed anonymous for a long time,” his brother said. “The brass tried to get at him” for airing the union’s internal disputes and criticizing his department’s management.

During tumultuous years when the prison officers’ union was at odds with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and its members were working under imposed terms, Mr. Doyle’s blog established itself as a public forum officers to debate issues or simply to vent.

For his part, Mr. Doyle criticized all sides, chiding the Schwarzenegger administration for policies that hit officers’ wallets and mocking the union’s leaders. Then-President Mike Jimenez was a target of Paco’s derision for antics such as refusing to cut his hair or beard until the union had a contract.

After the state excluded prison officers from a leave-cashout program last year, the blog featured an altered picture of the “Soup Nazi” from the “Seinfeld” TV show yelling, “NO CASH FOR YOU!” at a stoic correctional officer. Then Mr. Doyle counseled angry blog users to look on the bright side: “As any retiree will tell you, that fat cashout check you get once the pin has been pulled is a bonus bonanza! I know lots of you could use the cash now but, believe me, you’ll be happy you got the short end of the stick today, come tomorrow.”

Paco’s barbed comments weren’t limited to correctional matters. Last summer he derided Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow’s comment that viral video of an officer beating a woman by the side of a Southern California freeway revealed the need for more training. More likely, Mr. Doyle said, the incident revealed that CHP needs to upgrade its cadet screening practices and improve how it supervises officers in the field.

“Farrow’s statement exposes a top banana disconnected from the bunch,” Mr. Doyle wrote, “not to mention common sense.”

The blog’s future is unclear, Greg Doyle said, “but I think Jeff’s wife wants to keep it going. Right now it’s a little too early to make that decision. Jeff was Paco.”

Despite his caustic Internet persona, Mr. Doyle was a family man and generous to a near fault, his brother said.

“If one of his parolees was down on their luck,” Greg Doyle said, “Jeff would give them twenty bucks out of his own pocket for food.”

Mr. Doyle lived in Rocklin and was at home last Wednesday when he suffered the heart attack, his brother said. He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Loni Doyle, two daughters and four grandchildren.

Services will be held on Wednesday at Sierra Hills Memorial Park & East Lawn Mortuary, 5757 Greenback Lane in Sacramento at 1:00 p.m.

EDITORS NOTE, 3 p.m.: This post has been updated with comments from Chuck Alexander, president of CCPOA.

Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.