Editorials

Why did Yolo deputies evade responsibility and drive a homeless man to Sacramento?

When law enforcement officers pick up someone in clear need of aid and drop that person off outside their jurisdiction, they’re not trying to help the person. They’re trying to evade responsibility.

That’s what a pair of Yolo County sheriff’s deputies did when they recently found a homeless man in an unincorporated rural area they described as “void of any type of services.”

They didn’t take him to Davis or Woodland -- cities within their jurisdiction. They dropped him off at a McDonald’s in Sacramento. Unluckily for them, bystanders caught the act on video.

The Yolo County sheriff’s department offered thin excuses for their deputies’ bad decision, leaving many questions unanswered.

“Unfortunately, this individual inadvertently made his way into a very rural area of unincorporated Yolo County leaving him without options,” said Yolo County Sheriff’s Lt. Matt Davis in a statement.

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“The man was not found to meet the criteria for an involuntary detention due to his mental health challenges,” Davis added.

“We understand the appearance this activity had.”

If the deputies knew what it would look like if someone saw them dumping a homeless man at a McDonald’s in a neighboring county, does that mean they were hoping no one would see them do it?

The homeless man reportedly told Public Safety News he was trying to find a job picking grapes in the Yolo area. It sounds like he was right where he intended to be.

If deputies were worried about the man finding his way to an area without resources to help him, why did they drop him off at a fast food restaurant? Last we checked, McDonald’s doesn’t offer social services.

Finally, what’s wrong with the posh city of Davis, nearby West Sacramento or Woodland as drop-off locations within Yolo County? A quick Google search shows those cities offer their own services for the homeless.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg had more questions in an angry letter to Yolo County Sheriff Tom Lopez. For example: Did officers contact service providers in Yolo or Sacramento? Did they ensure the man’s safety when they dropped him off? Did they call Sacramento Police Department or any other local authorities to notify them of the drop-off?

At least one homeless man told Sacramento Bee reporter Bryan Anderson he’s known other people who say Yolo officers gave them a ride to Sacramento. If this is a common practice, we’re wondering who else in Yolo County is aware of it.

Does the Yolo County Board of Supervisors know? What do the mayors of Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento -- Yolo County’s largest cities -- have to say about this?

Hopefully, someone steps forward to ensure Yolo law enforcement is aware of the homeless services available there.

The worst thing about this drop-off is that it’s a distraction from real solutions for homelessness. We hope Yolo County’s leaders realize that shifting the burden won’t save them its cost.

Steinberg said Sacramento may start suing outside jurisdictions that surreptitiously send their homeless here. He also said he might seek state sanctions against the practice or work with Attorney General Xavier Becerra to crack down on police engaged in this type of behavior.

The money spent on lawsuits is money that would be better spent on shelters and services for the growing number who find themselves living on our region’s streets.

It’s immoral for local leaders to waste taxpayer money in attempts to evade their responsibilities. The homeless crisis can’t be swept under the rug, or pawned off on another county. Hopefully Yolo County’s leaders can commit to being part of the solution instead of taking steps to worsen the problem.

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