Opinion

Did Sheriff Scott Jones get away with going rogue? Apparently so.

Remember last year when Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones got rid of the independent oversight of his department and it became a big controversy?

Jones literally locked former Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel out of his buildings because Braziel acted within his capacity as county inspector general and did a deep dive into a terrible shooting by Jones’ deputies.

Braziel questioned whether Jones’ cops needed to kill an emotionally fragile African American man and Jones responded by bolting the doors so Braziel could no longer do his job, which was reviewing deputy shootings and county jail deaths.

Remember how some members of the Board of Supervisors – Sue Frost and Susan Peters – went along with Jones despite his egregious overreach and his trashing of transparency and accountability?

Remember how the community rose up several times to pack the board chambers and express their objection to Jones’ actions?

Opinion

Remember how the whole issue was bungled completely by Sacramento County Executive Nav Gill, who makes more than $300,000 a year for reasons that are not completely apparent?

Well, we are well into 2019, and guess what has happened? Nothing.

Jones got away with it. And at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Gill had his lucrative contract extended.

Jones forced Braziel out with Gill’s complicity. And mind you, all Braziel was doing was his job. He was questioning the tactics in the 2017 fatal shooting of Mikel McIntyre along the side of Highway 50. He produced a series of recommendations to improve the outcome the next time deputies drew guns on a suspect.

For that, Jones lost it. And instead of using his authority to acknowledge the public interest in having an independent inspector general, do you remember what Gill did?

He caved.

He acted as if Jones was his boss.

In December of last year, the community packed the board chambers and let Gill and everyone else know how they felt about this. They let Gill and supervisors know that they wanted the county to listen to them – the voters – and not Jones.

Well, guess what happened? Nothing. A pledge to draft county language that would bar Jones from unilaterally blocking oversight of his department has never materialized.

And Tuesday the board extended Gill’s contract.

Supervisor Patrick Kennedy voted for the contract extension. And here is what is so troubling. Many people around the region had hoped that Kennedy would join Supervisor Phil Serna as a progressive voice on a traditionally conservative board.

But with Kennedy voting yes on Gill, what should be a reasonable reaction from all those advocates who packed the county chambers?

Well, they could reasonably think that their words and emotions were ultimately disregarded. If the county executive, who basically knuckled under to Jones, is having his contract extended, shouldn’t those advocates feel pretty confident their views weren’t taken seriously?

And what should progressives and advocates think of Kennedy? He pledged to draft language that would make sure Jones couldn’t go rogue again. That was in December. It’s now April.

Have we seen this language? No.

So what was all that protest for last year?

Well, apparently nothing.

I think that Kennedy has chosen to go along to get along instead of trying to make the board more accountable to voters.

Frost and Peters didn’t really have a problem with Jones and shouldn’t be considered as two votes for law enforcement transparency. But Kennedy was supposed to be one of those votes for it. The hope was that his colleague, Don Nottoli, would be as well.

Frost and Peters voted for the contract extension. Notolli voted against. Serna said he was not consulted on the renewal of Gill’s contract and therefore abstained, which is as good as a “no” vote.

Both of Kennedy and Nottoli initially expressed dismay at Jones’ actions.

But as the months have passed, and public attention has diminished, their sense of dismay seems to have disappeared.

For those of you who study government inaction, you know how this works. The public rises up. The TV cameras show up. Folks such as Kennedy pledge to make things right. The cameras go away. The attention goes away.

They seem to make a choice to wait out the public. Then the status quo is preserved when the public looks away.

Meanwhile, Gill gets his $311,000 a year, which is obscene for a guy who hides behind his public information officer.

Jones can probably feel confident that Kennedy has backed out of his pledge to be more accountable to the public.

And citizens can look upon this whole thing as Exhibit A for how the county does not work for them.

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Marcos Breton writes commentary and opinion columns about the Sacramento region, California and the United States. He’s been a California newspaperman for more than 30 years. He’s a graduate of San Jose State University, a voter for the Baseball Hall of Fame and the proud son of Mexican immigrants.
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