Santa Clara Co. Sheriff responds to calls to resign and possible investigations

Santa Clara Co. Sheriff responds to calls to resign and possible investigations
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By Wesley Severson - Published on August 17, 2021.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith held a press conference Tuesday in response to calls to resign from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. Smith says she will not be stepping down. The Sheriff did not directly respond to Liccardo’s calls to step down but when asked about it by a reporter, she said she is staying put. Mayor Liccardo held his own news conference Monday claiming that her department is riddled with bribery, a dishonest culture, questionable body camera mandates, and the deaths and severe beatings of inmates.

This week the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will be looking into possibly starting an investigation into inmate mistreatment allegations. According to San Jose Spotlight, last week, the Board of Supervisors also released recommendations that include using the Attorney General in all investigations. It would also require new practices that would hold people at the jail more accountable for their actions. 

Sheriff Smith spent a majority of her press conference defending her department in response to the board’s requests. "Since there continues to be a lot of speculation and inferences, I welcome any and all investigations. It really is important to have experts provide an in-depth review of some of the things that have been stated so we can get the true facts," Sheriff Smith said in video posted by NBC Bay Area

Liccardo blasted Smith in a statement Monday. “Sheriff Smith’s repeated mismanagement of the jail has destroyed lives, violating the most basic of civil rights of its inmates, including the death of Michael Tyree in 2015; severe head injuries of Andrew Hogan in 2018; severe spinal injury of Martin Nunez in 2019; and a seven-minute beating of a man by 31 other inmates in 2020," the statement reads.

Attorney Paula Canny was at the side of Smith at the press conference and claimed the Sheriff’s Department lacks funding to properly take care of inmates. "And so if you want to attack the sheriff for trying to do a job that jails are not ever intended to be treatment facilities for mentally ill people, you're going to have problems," Canny said in video posted by KTVU.

Liccardo said on Monday that Smith has been requiring police officers to turn off their body cameras when they are transporting suspects who are combative to the jail. He also referenced a Grand Jury indictment surrounding her campaign during the last election. 

“When a Grand Jury indicts the Sheriff’s top assistants and campaign fundraiser on bribery charges relating to contributions to her own re-election efforts, we should have serious concerns. But when that same Sheriff --the top law enforcement officer in the county--then refuses to cooperate with the bribery investigation for fear of incriminating herself, the time for concern is long past. Sheriff Smith must resign,” Liccardo’s statement reads.

Sheriff Smith is 69 years old and is currently serving her sixth term as Santa Clara County Sheriff. She is up for re-election next year.