Commentary: Oversight Needed for Sheriff's Department

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, December 8, 2005

In recent years, the brass at the Sacramento Sheriff’s department never even bothered to inquire about inmates in the downtown jail who had to be hospitalized following altercations with deputies. Now, Sheriff Lou Blanas thinks an advisory body headed by an official who’s paid by the county under a contract drawn up and signed by the sheriff himself can conduct a credible investigation into charges of systematic abuse at the jail.

The conflicts here are obvious. The sheriff’s department needs what the Sacramento Police Department already has - credible independent oversite.

It is true, as Blanas says, that the sheriff stands for election every four years and there is accountability in that. Assemblyman Dave Jones is a supporter of independent oversight. What he says is also true – that “voters can’t investigate allegations of deputy misconduct. They can’t interview witnesses or take complaints or hold individual officers accountable.”

City police initially opposed oversight of their department. But now, six years into that experiment, citizen complaints have plummeted and police officers are among the independent oversight’s biggest fans.  Hey, Sheriff Blanas – Are you paying attention?