Our esteemed orange-colored leader, Sir Tweets-a-Lot Trump, isn't the only public official who can't seem to control his social media rants. Now SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow has thrown his hat in the ring for biggest intemperate online blatherer.
It started when Tribune reporter Matt Fountain (formerly a New Times reporter we trained into the excellent journalist he is now; you're welcome, Trib) wrote a piece called "SLO County Jail is under FBI investigation after 11 inmate deaths" (Aug. 1). Dow took to Facebook to say, "Beware of misleading and sensational news headlines. The timing of and wording of today's online Tribune article misleads readers to believe that the FBI is suddenly launching a new investigation into the Sheriffs [sic] Office. This is NOT the truth and certainly not new news."
Wow. A thin-skinned public official taking to social media to cry "fake news" about a story he doesn't like? Have you been taking lessons from Supervisor Adam Hill, Danny boy?
Dow even asked The Tribune to correct the "misleading headline," which they declined to do because, you know, it IS the truth. As the Trib's Executive Editor Sandra Duerr wrote in her Facebook response, "The Tribune did not say that the FBI just launched its investigation. Rather, The Tribune reported the FBI confirmed to us on Tuesday, Aug. 1, that it is investigating the jail and whether civil rights violations played a role in a series of inmate deaths. We stand by our headline."
Sheesh! Not only that, but Fountain reported way back on June 22 that Parkinson said he welcomed an investigation by the FBI, so the Trib already reported on Parkinson's invitation to the feds.
The bottom line is the FBI is investigating the jail over which Sheriff Ian Parkinson presides. That should be that, right? Well, wrong. Another Facebook commenter, Joe Cirone, wrote, "Eleven people died while in the custody of Parkinson! I can't see how Parkinson can do anything but resign. I'm shocked and sickened that a district attorney would try and evoke sympathy for him."
Cirone went on to explained he's been a psychiatric technician for 30 years and he smelled "something fishy" about the D.A.'s defense of Parkinson, adding, "Shame on you Dow!"
A prudent public official might have left that right there, but not Danny boy, who retorted, "Where is your outrage at hospitals for all the people dying in hospitals?"
What in the actual fuck are you talking about, Dow? False analogy much? You're a freaking lawyer! That's your argument?
People go to hospitals when they're sick or injured, and hospitals don't put patients in restraint chairs for 46 hours straight, as Parkinson's deputies did with Andrew Holland, 36, who subsequently died of a blood clot-induced embolism. No, hospitals try to save people, some of whom are too ill or injured to survive. We're not outraged at hospitals when people die because they're trying to save people's lives, albeit sometimes unsuccessfully.
On the other hand, people are taken to jail unwillingly. But when they get there, they—as well as the public at large—assume they'll be treated humanely, offered medical and psychiatric care when appropriate, and not be ignored when requesting medical attention or tortured because they're undergoing a mental health crisis.
Remember Kevin Lee McLaughlin, 60, who died of a heart attack in jail last April after complaining of pain and requesting medical attention ... that he did not receive? Look, most of the 11 deaths were probably unpreventable, and Parkinson has admitted the jail doesn't have the resources it needs to deal with these emergencies. Well that needs fixing, amirite?
Holland's parents, Carty and Sharon Holland, will receive a $5 million settlement from SLO County, or as I like to think of it, a settlement from me and my fellow taxpayers. Technically, the county only chipped in $10,000 to the insurance company, but we pay the premium on that plan! I'm pissed that my elected officials have shrugged their shoulders and been unable to fix a system under which so many inmates have died.
The latest jail incident to come to light didn't result in death, but former inmate Jeremiah Mobley, 39, has filed a claim alleging he was tortured while incarcerated. Like Holland, he was taken to jail in the midst of a mental health crisis—on Jan. 22, the same night as Holland's death—and alleges he was subsequently hog-tied and suffered abuse at the hands of staff as well as a lack of medical attention that led to physical disfigurement.
What in the hell is going on at the jail? Why is Dan Dow taking to Facebook to scold The Tribune and defend Ian Parkinson? Why is Dow swapping surly comments with private citizens on social media? Is his behavior befitting a district attorney?
There appears to be a woeful lack of mental health services in the county. Many of the chronically homeless in the area have obvious mental health problems. SLO County Mental Health Services seems to have a lack of beds and staff to cover the county's needs. The jail doesn't appear to have the resources to care for mentally ill inmates. We will be judged by how we treat the least among us, and right now, we're failing miserably. Δ
The Shredder is thinking about running for office, but can't decide between DA or sheriff. Send ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.