The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office continues to search for two inmates who escaped from a Palo Alto courthouse last week, and one former official says this latest incident with jail inmates points to a leadership issue.
Inmates John Bivins and Tramel McClough remained on the loose Monday, a week after they used a key to unlock their shackles, overpowered a deputy and fled a Palo Alto courthouse, an escape that was orchestrated with the help of at least two accomplices who have since been arrested.
"Our detectives are working around the clock, 20 detectives, to solve this," sheriff's Sgt. Reggie Cooks said Monday.
Retired Judge Ladoris Cordell, who chaired the Blue Ribbon Commission charged with recommending reforms after three jail guards were found guilty of murdering a mentally ill inmate, said a change is needed at the top with Sheriff Laurie Smith.
"Here we go again," she said. "This to me is old news."
Smith, who oversees county jails, has been under fire for multiple lapses in the county corrections department, starting with the murder of Michael Tyree in his cell at the Main Jail in August 2015.
About a year ago, two inmates escaped the Main Jail in San Jose after sawing their way out of a cell and remained on the run for a couple of weeks. Smith gave out a $20,000 reward in that case after Laron Campbell and Rogelio Chavez were captured, thanks to community tips.
A $25,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the capture of Bivins and McClough.
Cordell said you can't throw money at the problem by doling out rewards after mistakes are made. She has endorsed Smith’s opponent in the next election, insisting it's time for change.
"She’s had plenty of time to be the leadership of the sheriff’s office, and what do we have for that? Murder," Cordell said about Smith. "So, the commission found so many things that need to be fixed just in the jail, not even talking about patrols.
"Let me tell you, good leadership basically says, 'I messed up, I take responsibility, I'm going to fix it.' That's not what this sheriff does," Cordell said. "She does not own up when there are mess-ups, and there have been quite a few of them."
The sheriff’s office did not wish to respond to Cordell’s comments, saying its focus right now, is on capturing the fugitives.