Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith Accused of Misconduct - NBC Bay Area
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Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith Accused of Misconduct

The allegation is that Sheriff Laurie Smith tried to influence a retired judge heading up the commission on improving jail operations.

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    The Deputy Sheriff's Association of Santa Clara County on Monday asked the county to investigate new allegations of misconduct involving Sheriff Laurie Smith. Marianne Favro reports. (Published Monday, March 28, 2016)

    The Deputy Sheriff's Association of Santa Clara County on Monday asked the county to investigate new allegations of misconduct involving Sheriff Laurie Smith.

    The allegation is that Smith tried to influence a retired judge heading up the commission on improving jail operations. That same commission has now recommended the sheriff no longer oversee the jails.

    "Their accusations are untrue, I am focused on implementing meaningful reforms throughout our jail," Smith said in a statement to NBC Bay Area. "I would’ve of hoped that instead of slinging mud trying to protect the status quo, the Union Leadership would offer some ideas for improving custody operations. Clearly, the reforms are headed in the right direction if those that want to cling to the past are on the attack.”

    Retired judge LaDoris Cordell heads up the commission looking into jail operations. The commission was formed after three guards allegedly beat inmate Michael Tyree to death last year.

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    The Deputy Sheriff's Association of Santa Clara accuses Smith of misconduct during a private meeting she held with Cordell on March 3.

    The association said that, according to Cordell, the sheriff shared documents associated with a county personnel investigation and warned if the commission called for change in leadership it would hurt Smith's re-election battle.

    "Clearly the sheriff is more concerned about advancing her own political career than she is about addressing the real issues in our county jails," Roger Winslow, vice president of the Deputy Sheriff's Association, said in a statement.

    The association is now calling for the county to investigate Smith's alleged misconduct at that meeting. The new accusations come just two days after the Blue Ribbon Commission recommended a change of leadership at the county jails.

    "There's a failure in leadership," said Rick Callender, vice president of the NAACP California-Hawaii chapter. "We need better oversight and we need federal oversight."

    The commission also voted to send 120 recommendations regarding the jails to the Santa Clara County supervisors.

    In addition to new leadership, those recommendations include:

    • creating an independent citizens oversight commission
    • increasing medical services for mentally ill inmates
    • reviewing hiring and training policies for guards

    Smith provided the following additional statement to NBC Bay Area: 

    "I remain focused on keeping Santa Clara County safe. We are making needed reforms in our jail to ensure that those who deserve to be behind bars are receiving mental health and re-entry services so they don’t come back. But we must always remember that our jail houses violent offenders and gang members and we must also strive to provide the safest working environment for our custody staff."

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