Video: Santa Clara County sheriff’s officials announce staffing changes at jails in response to use of force data


SAN JOSE (BCN) — Santa Clara County sheriff’s officials are making jail staffing changes in response to data that shows a chunk of complaints have stemmed from a particular shift and housing modifications to better serve mentally ill inmates.

The “D” shift at the Main Jail in San Jose has accounted for 43 percent of use of force complaints and 38 percent of self-reported use of force complaints made by custody staff, Sheriff Laurie Smith said during a news conference Wednesday at sheriff’s headquarters.

Custody staff members that work the shift are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and every other Saturday, all days that can be the busiest time of the week at the jail, Assistant Sheriff Tony Beliveau said.
Supervisors, management and staff on the “D” shift tend to have the least seniority, Smith said.

“I don’t think experience equates to unnecessary or inappropriate use of force,” she said, adding that more “seasoned people” need to be working with less experienced staff.

An example of a self-reported use of force case can involve deputies who had to gain control over an inmate who turned on them while being transferred, Beliveau said.

To increase supervision and management, sheriff’s Lt. Vic Delacruz and Sgt. Jennifer Bice will be transferred to the “D” shift effective Monday, according to Beliveau.

Nine deputies with crisis intervention training who were supposed to be transferred to the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas will temporarily stay at the Main Jail, Beliveau said.

Lieutenants and sergeants will also be required to maintain an activity sheet for their shift to keep track of information such as areas within the facility they’ve been to and inmates they’ve spoken to, according to Beliveau.

Their watch commander will then send the documents to their division commander, Beliveau said.

Efforts are being made to provide mental health training for “D” shift custody staff and other employees, Undersheriff and Chief of Corrections John Hirokawa said.

Inmates with mental illness will be moved in closer proximity to one another to address their needs and open more opportunities such as group therapy, Hirokawa said.

The transfers will help provide the inmates with the services they need and allow mental health and medical staff more time with them instead of moving throughout the facilities, Hirokawa said.

While many people would think most of the use of force complaints occurred in the jail intake area, the data has shown a majority were in inmate housing units, Smith said.

Sheriff’s officials are still analyzing use of force incidents from past years and it appears a majority came from the “D” shift, she said.

The sheriff’s office is in labor contract negotiations with the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers’ Association. Currently members with more seniority can bid on the shifts and facility they’d like to work, Smith said.

“That’s something we’ve been trying to break for a long time with the union,” Smith said.

All the actions announced will be reported to the Blue Ribbon Commission analyzing custody operations, according to Hirokawa. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled on Saturday at the county board chambers to discuss the complaint process for inmates.

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