I’ve relied on intellectual discourse, logic and law to navigate the inspector general conversation, but not everyone has.
The Sacramento Bee has been overt in its crusade to create outside oversight of the Sheriff’s Department, and in its disdain at my willingness to stand up for law enforcement and public safety. Among other things, a columnist called me “Sheriff Mini-Trump” and I have been described as arrogant, rogue, authoritarian, an egregious betrayer of public trust, a dictator, and full of bluster, misstatements and untruths.
The Bee has tried to bully county supervisors, the county counsel and the state Attorney General, urging them to use subpoenas, lawsuits and the grand jury to stop an “out-of-control” sheriff. One thing is certain, when folks resort to name calling, personal attacks and emotional appeals, facts and law are not on their side.
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Let’s examine facts. First, county Supervisor Phil Serna and The Bee claim I’m trying to “water down” the inspector general role. This is simply untrue. The IG never had independent oversight of the Sheriff’s Department, or the ability to independently investigate anything. It could only monitor existing investigations. The IG’s role has simply always been to observe policies, practices and investigations to suggest improvements, and to be a community liaison.
I know this because I helped create the original IG model. I’m the one as sheriff who asked the Board of Supervisors to reinstate it, and everyone involved was clear about its role. My recent efforts have been to clarify those existing roles and limitations, but opportunists saw an opening to create a false narrative to gain not accountability, but control over the Sheriff’s Department.
Second, asserting that without an omnipotent Inspector General I somehow escape accountability is asinine. No law enforcement agency in Sacramento County or anywhere in the region has an Inspector General, or any other outside person who can exercise oversight over a department. Can it be seriously suggested then that all law enforcement leaders lack accountability?
True accountability and trust comes from many sources, including the individual contacts that officers make every day with citizens, how we meet community expectations and how we deliver services.
And in my case, it also comes by the purest form of democracy, Sacramento County voters. No other elected official -- the governor, the mayor, or a county supervisor – is subject to independent oversight. Rather, accountability comes directly from the people. That is precisely why the law is very clear that an elected sheriff must conduct business free from outside influences.
The women and men of the Sheriff’s Department do a phenomenal job. Even with the lowest staffing in the region, our department has lowered crime more than any other agency; is the most technologically advanced, racially diverse and innovative; has created specialized teams to deal with homeless and mentally ill people, and at-risk youth and community programs; has outstanding morale and employee retention; and gives millions of dollars each year back to the county to fund other priorities.
We only need to look in our own backyard to see what dismantling of law enforcement looks like when politicians substitute their judgment for that of law enforcement leaders, catering to the vocal few at the expense of the silent masses.
The fact is I am accountable and always have been, but not to politicians or The Bee. I am accountable to voters, crime victims and the public that trusts the Sheriff’s Department to keep them safe, and trusts me to lead it free from outside control or political influence. That is the way it has to stay.