Viewpoints

Phil Serna: Sheriff’s Office shouldn’t be able to impede inspector general’s work

Sheriff Scott Jones says the McIntyre shooting has not led to any changes in policy or training as of yet

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.
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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 Sheriff Scott Jones and I disagree about many things.

He supports the Trump administration; I do not. He supported extending Sacramento County’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; I moved to cancel it. He supports carry and conceal policies that allow thousands more guns in our community than I would like. He originally opposed body cameras for officers; I’ve consistently supported body cameras.

But our latest disagreement is the most troubling.

Scott Jones believes independent review of his office should be susceptible to his whim, as his actions against Inspector General Rick Braziel have shown. Jones locked Braziel out of the county’s jails, restricted his access to records and prohibited him from visiting officer-involved shooting scenes after Braziel released his review of the 2017 officer involved shooting death of Mikel McIntyre.

I do not believe the Sheriff’s Office should be able to impede the inspector general’s work. The Sheriff’s Office shouldn’t be able to shield records and it shouldn’t be able to keep an inspector general away from jails or shooting scenes.

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So I’ve asked the Sacramento County Counsel’s Office and California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra to help the Board of Supervisors explore legal and policy options that enrich the integrity of independent review practices.

The sheriff and I worked together a few years ago to recommend Braziel for the inspector general position. The Office of Inspector General produces independent, publicly accessible reports that advance transparency in the Sheriff’s Department, and it is the review agent for in-custody deaths and officer-involved shootings.

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Jones has impeded Braziel’s ability to execute his contractual obligation to county residents and taxpayers. His reckless actions leave us with no independent review capacity for events resulting in injury or death -- an unacceptable consequence for both civilians and peace officers.

I’ve heard from hundreds of very concerned, very angry constituents who feel strongly that the sheriff’s intent to disrupt the work of the IG constitutes a classic example of “the fox guarding the henhouse,” undermining the reliability of an independent review process.

While residents have voiced their concerns, Jones has made wild claims on social media that a local Black Lives Matter organization, The Sacramento Bee and I are involved in a “liberal” conspiracy to “take over” the Sheriff’s Department.

Nothing could be more absurd, disappointing or further from the truth.

If Scott Jones disagrees with the substance and/or circumstance of the McIntyre officer-involved shooting review – or that of any other IG publication – I would expect him to express his entitled opinion. If that was all that had occurred, we would probably have disagreed yet again, but retaining the services of a skilled, respected and fully capable inspector general in Braziel would not now be in question.

Jones has shown he wants to be able to shut down the Office of Inspector General at any time and for any reason. He is depriving residents of unfettered independent review and he is systematically ignoring effective, nonlethal use of force measures that could better serve the public and our deputies.

The next public opportunity to hear about these options and to express opinions on the matter is the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors meeting scheduled for Dec. 4 in the board’s chambers at 700 H Street. The agenda item is scheduled for 2 p.m. and I invite concerned residents to attend and participate.

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