Sacramento’s Sheriff Wants to Strip Oversight of His Department. Supervisors’ Ability to Stop Him May Be Limited.

Sacramento County supervisors met last Tuesday to discuss the fate of the Inspector General’s Office. And while nothing is set in stone, supervisors have obviously been unpersuaded by Sheriff Scott Jones’ arguments in favor of reducing oversight of his department so far.

“Not for a second should the board be taken out of the picture,” said Supervisor Don Nottoli, as quoted by Capitol Public Radio.

Jones’ recommended changes are “absolutely ludicrous,” said Supervisor Phil Serna.

But that’s not what County Counsel Robyn Truitt Drivon says. She has advised the Board that Jones has the power to limit the IG’s oversight because the county’s charter “does not provide clear direction of the Board over the Sheriff at present.”  If the Board wishes to solidify the IG’s authority and independence, she told htem they must pursue changes to the county’s governing document.

Supervisor Patrick Kennedy lamented that reality.

“We’re here because the language that’s been here since ’07 sucks,” he said.

The controversy over Sacramento’s IG began shortly after an August report by IG Rick Braziel that was highly critical of the sheriff’s department’s role in the 2017 fatal shooting of Mikel McIntyre. Following the report, Sheriff Jones barred Braziel’s access to county facilities, jails, and crime scenes and proposed stripping him of many of his current oversight powers, including the ability to conduct use-of-force investigations. That prompted supervisors to ask whether the sheriff could even do such a thing.

Jones has defended his actions by saying that the IG was out of line in issuing the report prior to the publication of the District Attorney’s findings on the McIntyre shooting. The Sacramento Deputy Sheriff’s Association agreed.

“The inspector general should not be drawing any legal conclusions on a matter that has been sent to the district attorney for review,” Association President Kevin Mickelson said. “That’s where [Braziel] got himself into hot water on this last case.”

For the time being, supervisors are caught between a rock and a hard place. All of them seem to understand the critical role of transparency and accountability in a county that has seen a number of policing troubles. But ensuring that oversight may be harder than they realized.