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Guest opinion column by County Supervisor Sue Frost–
In August, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors were thrust into the local media spotlight after Sheriff Scott Jones lost faith in the inspector general (an independent contractor retained by the County) and terminated his access to the Sheriff’s Department. Since then, the Board of Supervisors have held meetings to discuss how to move forward, with the issue finally finding a resolution during a Dec. 4 meeting.
Since this is the most controversial issue I have been involved with since being on the Board, I wanted to take a moment to try to clearly explain this complicated issue, and let you know my thoughts.
The County of Sacramento has had the position of inspector general from 2007 until 2012 (when it was eliminated due to budget cuts), and then brought back in 2015 at the request of the sheriff.
Sacramento is one of only five California counties that has an inspector general. The position was created to work with the sheriff’s department to improve services and review procedures — including, but not limited to, officer-involved shootings.
The inspector general has been a part-time contractor because, thankfully, there are very few shootings involving Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputies. The inspector general is relevant to Citrus Heights because the inspector general also has the authority to inspect issues surrounding the jail, which is where the Citrus Heights Police Department takes their inmates.
One of the reports issued in 2018 was regarding a shooting that resulted in the death of a man named Mikel McIntyre. McIntyre had assaulted a family member, and in the process of evading arrest had struck an officer in the head with a large rock causing significant injury.
Soon after, a 911 witness observed McIntyre throwing rocks at cars on the freeway and he began attacking another officer and a K-9 unit with more rocks, hitting the K-9 in the face. In an effort to protect the general public, officers continued to pursue him, and as he was evading arrest the suspect was shot seven times and did not survive.
The case was referred to the inspector general whose investigative authority involves constructive critique, offering recommendations intended to improve the department. It is not their job to determine if the shots fired were lawful. That is the sole responsibility of the District Attorney’s office.
Months later in an unprecedented move, the inspector general (under considerable political pressure) released his report before the DA had completed its investigation.
His report gave evaluations and critiques (on use of force and decision making) that could be misleading if considered without the benefit of the DA’s full investigation. The inspector general is not a use of force expert (neither is the sheriff), and his findings were disputed by a nationally renowned use of force expert when the district attorney investigation and report was eventually released.
Dismissing normal procedure was confusing for the public and has been damaging to the morale of the sheriff’s department. Additionally, the inspector general’s assessment will very likely be used in civil court against the County of Sacramento, with all legal fees and monetary judgments paid for by county taxpayers.
In the aftermath, the sheriff questioned the ability of the inspector general to remain impartial to outside or political influences. He terminated the inspector general’s access to the sheriff’s department and told the Board of Supervisors that he would like us to hire someone new.
This put the Board of Supervisors in a difficult situation, as we were left with an Inspector General who we were paying $10,000 a month to essentially do nothing. As a result, the Board of Supervisors had a series of meetings to discuss how to proceed, given the sheriff is a co-equal elected official who answers to the people of Sacramento (not the Board of Supervisors).
Our discussions mostly revolved around what legal options we had, and what role we want the inspector general’s office to play in the county. All five supervisors and the sheriff agreed that we need an inspector general in the county.
Despite public and private statements from the sheriff that he continues to support an independent IG, some members of the media choose to spin this issue as a show-down between the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors — when it clearly is not — or to portray it as an attempt by the sheriff to eliminate transparency from his department by permanently shutting down the Office of Inspector General — which is also simply not the case.
The sheriff wanted to ensure we had a process for fair, independent investigations, and to not allow politics to endanger our deputies and our communities. I completely agree with him.
The issue culminated on Dec. 4 with a final meeting that was widely touted in the media as a showdown between the sheriff and the supervisors. But that was a mischaracterization because the sheriff largely agreed with the majority of supervisors.
At the end of the day, all sides were able to come together to find a workable solution despite the tense atmosphere. Nobody got everything they wanted, but nobody gave up too much either. That’s the sign of a good deal, and one I was willing to support.
The county supervisors will invite interested and qualified contractors to bid for the job of inspector general, so we can restore that office. I believe that this process can and should begin immediately. The previous inspector general is welcome to bid for it as well.
The county clarified that while the sheriff has autonomy over how to run his department, the county supervisors have the right to have an inspector general who can have specified access to the sheriff’s department as an independent review to help inform our budget appropriations.
There are some small steps that will need to be taken in order to finalize all the agreements, but for all intents and purposes, this issue is now behind us with all parties in agreement.
Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost formerly served as a Citrus Heights councilwoman and currently represents District 4, which includes Citrus Heights. She can be contacted at (916) 874-5491, or SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.
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