By Don Barnes
Full Article: Print Only
Date: July 30, 2021
“There is an often repeated quote in legal circles that says “If the facts are on your side, argue the facts; If the law is on your side, argue the law; When you have neither, pound the table and yell.”
With neither facts nor the law on their side, the Orange County Register Editorial Board has resorted to their form of pounding the table: a sensationalized and deliberately inaccurate headline (“Sheriff’s deal tarnishes OC justice system”, July 22).
The editorial in question alleges that a new agreement between my department and the deputy sheriff’s association results in deputies no longer being held accountable for bad actions.
This is false and misleading.
Because both the facts and law are on my side, I believe I have an obligation to set the record straight.
The agreement is based on case law, which makes clear that a deputy (or any employee for that matter) cannot be disciplined solely for exercising their Fifth Amendment right under the United States Constitution.
Constitutional rights belong to the individual.
However, the Constitution does not prevent an employer from holding employees accountable for their conduct, criminal or otherwise.
This agreement does not prevent the department from conducting an internal affairs investigation into any underlying allegation that may have caused the deputy to exercise their Fifth Amendment right. This agreement does not prevent the department from holding that deputy accountable if it is determined that wrongdoing has taken place. I have held such deputies accountable in the past, and will do so in the future.
This “agreement” simply put into writing what the department was doing and will continue to do going forward. I would not have agreed to it if that were not the case.
Ensuring a peace officer’s ability to exercise their constitutional right never absolves them from consequence if they broke the law or fell short of department expectations.
The department’s record demonstrates our commitment to address wrongdoing.
In 2020, our Internal Affairs Bureau investigated a total of 214 personnel for alleged policy violations.
Of that total, 147 resulted in a sustained finding with the employee receiving discipline.
The discipline is based on the severity of the violation and ranges from a written reprimand to dismissal.
What is most notable about our internal investigations is that 95% were initiated by members of the department recognizing conduct they believe does not meet our standards. Our agency of nearly 4,000 individuals prides itself on professionalism and integrity. We do our diligence in rooting out those unwilling to meet this high standard.
Wrongdoing by the public’s employees should always be subject to scrutiny. However, a myopic focus on a small fraction of employees unjustly ignores the systemic successes of law enforcement. The continued effort to indict a whole profession because of bad acts by a few is akin to labeling all media outlets “fake news” because some reporters use their pen to further a personal bias.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will continue to hold accountable those within our ranks that do wrong.
We remain committed to doing our part in a justice system that is based on true facts, constitutional rights and equal enforcement of the law.”