Opinion » Shredder

Priorities

comment

While the SLO County Board of Supervisors has been dithering over who should get to be the board chair or on this committee or that, or whether it’s OK to fleece all county taxpayers of $6 million to specifically benefit Paso Groundwater Basin users, or if Nipomo is getting its fair share of recreational facility money, the elephant in the room is why the SLO County Sheriff’s Department keeps allowing inmates to die in its custody. Why hasn’t a supervisor taken up that issue with, say, the fervor that 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton brought to the Nipomo parks issue?

The board had Sheriff Ian Parkinson in front of them on April 11 so he could present a proclamation for “San Luis Obispo County National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.”

“Not only is it important,” Parkinson said of recognizing dispatchers, “but oftentimes they get overlooked.”

Then the board gathered around Parkinson and some of his dispatchers and took a nice photo. Yay! Aren’t dispatchers great?

Yes, sure they’re great and their work is important, yet not one supervisor thought to ask Parkinson what needed to be done to prevent another death like that of Andrew Holland, who died in January in the SLO County Jail after spending nearly two full days—46 hours—naked in a seven-point restraint chair with nothing more than a blanket covering him.

Holland was known to suffer from schizophrenia, and Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy ordered him to be transferred to a county inpatient mental health facility 12 days prior to his death. Apparently, there wasn’t a bed for Holland. Isn’t that a problem that needs addressing? It’s also unclear whether Holland had been given his antipsychotic medications while in jail custody, without which he was prone to violence and self-harm. Isn’t that an issue to delve into?

According to a county coroner’s report by Dr. Gary A. Walter, Holland died of “natural” causes, “natural” in this case being an intrapulmonary embolism (blood clot in his lung) that killed him less than an hour after he was finally released from the restraint chair. He died in a glass observation cell, where he was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes. Parkinson claims his staff followed all protocols.

I claim your protocols suck, Ian. They’re clearly inadequate, inhumane, and ineffective.

Not only that, but according to the Sheriff’s Office news release on Jan. 23, Holland’s body had “no outward signs of trauma,” while the recently released coroner’s report claimed Holland’s body had marks consistent with restraint straps and handcuffs as well as swollen hands, a shin abrasion, and dried blood in his nose, not to mention a contusion on his right hand and swelling on his face, most probably from the self-harm that landed him in the restraint chair nearly two days prior. Why didn’t the Sheriff’s Office’s press release on Jan. 23 reflect those injuries? Why don’t our supervisors find these questions worth asking?

Holland’s death marks the 10th inmate to die in SLO County Jail custody since 2011—the year Parkinson was elected—but hey, supervisors, keep arguing about committee appointments and who’s most lacking in collegial decorum. That’s way more important than dead inmates.

State law requires that restrained inmates who can’t be safely removed from restraints within eight hours must be taken to a “medical facility for further evaluation.” If jail staff had followed this law, Holland would have been under medical supervision during his “natural” intrapulmonary embolism episode (had it still occurred), and he certainly would have had a better chance of surviving than he had in jail. Likewise, if he had been placed in an inpatient facility 12 days prior as ordered by Judge Duffy, he would more likely be alive right now. Jail is no place for the mentally ill. That should be painfully obvious to all.

So why isn’t this of concern, supervisors? You oversee the sheriff, jail, and mental health services. Where does the buck stop? Whose fault is Holland’s death?

How would you like it if we put the five of you buck naked in your very own Pro-Straint Restraint Chair with its seven-point harness and leave you all in a glass observational cell until you can figure out how to stop people from dying in jail custody? In fact, while you’re restrained, maybe you can also figure out how to a) get along with one another; b) compromise; and c) put the well-being of your constituents above your own petty partisan politics. Think of it as a time out for ill-behaved children.

Meanwhile, in the $70,000 well spent (not!) category, we have the SLO City Council’s decision to fine SLO Fire Chief Garret Olson and SLO City Manager Katie Lichtig for their participation in a satirical video played at the SLO Chamber of Commerce annual dinner.

Lichtig, who makes a cool $230,464 a year, saw her salary docked $2,659. Ouch! I guess she’s going to have to go without Russian caviar this month. Oh wait, she just got a $2,000 bonus. Put the caviar back on the grocery list.

Olsen took the real hit. Paid $176,852 annually, his pay was docked $5,442—the equivalent of an eight-day suspension. Now if there was just some way to recoup that $61,899 left on the $70K investigation tab!

This seems like a colossal waste of taxpayer funds and a bit too much hullabaloo over what was nothing more than a silly, tasteless video. But what do I know? Nobody elected me to nothing!

The Shredder can’t be restrained. Send ideas and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

Tags

Add a comment