What is Going Wrong at the Jail?

The Bexar County Jail.
The Bexar County Jail.

We’ve been thinking a lot about the problems at the Bexar County jail and I think we may have an idea of why things are going so bad.  While we do believe that the Salazar administration is responsible for a huge number of the issues, we don’t feel they are all his fault.

To begin with, the Sheriff’s Office is a two-tiered system.  It consists of Law Enforcement and Detention.  Over the years, the sheriffs who have been elected have been law enforcement, except for Pamerleau, who was neither.  It’s very natural to stick with what you know and give more of your attention to that area.  Not only that, but all the positive aspects that a sheriff wants to brag about happen on the law enforcement side so, again, they give the L.E. tier more attention, equipment, and care more about its staffing.

The Detention tier doesn’t get the same kind of consideration.  They are treated as lesser officers, as compared to their Law Enforcement counterparts, even if they are peace officers.  The nature of the Detention side is silence when things are running well.  That doesn’t help a sheriff to brag.  When the Detention side makes the news, it’s usually because something went wrong.  This can lead to a sheriff having a poor opinion of the Detention side since almost every time the Detention side is brought to the public’s attention, the sheriff is placed in a negative spotlight.  We feel the lack of attention and respect has been slowly eroding the efficiency and integrity of the Detention side of the Sheriff’s Office.

To want to be the sheriff, a person would have to have at least a little bit of an ego.  That’s pretty much necessary for any politician.  Candidates run on how much they know.  But the attitude of being knowledgeable can be detrimental when the person has too much of an ego.  It can cause the candidate to feel he or she is the only one who knows the answers, making them unwilling to listen to others with more experience.  It takes an extremely confident individual to understand that the position of sheriff is a CEO position, not really a law enforcement position.  Their job is to run BOTH tiers of the BCSO and if they don’t have Detention knowledge, they need to be listening to the people in Detention who know what they are doing.

Sheriffs Ralph Lopez, Rolando Tafolla, Amadeo Ortiz and Javier Salazar, have all come from the San Antonio Police Department.  Sheriff Susan Pamerleau came from the military.  None of these people had any idea how to run the Detention tier.  Their levels of competence, in how they handled Detention, range from good to total disaster.  However, after extensive research, we would say that none of them handled the Detention tier in an excellent fashion.

As explained above, the incentive is to give attention to the Law Enforcement tier.  Those sheriffs didn’t have an experience based interest that encouraged them to care about and to understand the Detention tier.  We think the next sheriff should be someone from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office who has worked, not only in Law Enforcement, but also in Detention.

So far, the only person who has announced that fits that criteria is Jose Trevino.  (We give no credit to Javier Salazar for having any idea of how to run the jail).  Unfortunately, even Mr. Trevino doesn’t stress what his goals are for the Detention side.  He has fallen into the same trap that all other candidates do, only focusing on the Law Enforcement side.

Mr. Trevino, if you are listening, please update your bio to state not only how you want to reform and restore the Law Enforcement side but also how you want to help the Detention side.

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