SheriffClockIn PART ONE of this topic, I discussed that with the upcoming election for the office of Sheriff, Sacramento has an opportunity to lead by example for the nation, by seeking a candidate for Sheriff that will finally implement long overdue and major changes to the longstanding ‘us against them’ culture of law enforcement…

Changes that the majority of citizens not just in Sacramento, but across this entire nation, have been demanding for some time now, in the face of a national epidemic of increased shootings by police of unarmed minorities and other abuse of force incidents. Such a sea change and overhaul of the police mindset is imperative now more than ever, in the interest of justice and equality for all, regardless of race, ethnicity or income status.

Part one of this series was primarily dedicated to describing in some detail exactly how to bring about such an about-face police culture change. The current model, so often accurately referred to by most Americans as an obvious ‘good ole boy system’ – or ‘fraternal’ system that even proudly has established ‘Fraternal Orders of Police’ for practically every police agency in the nation…

That upside down, often corrupt and grossly abusive model must be dismantled in the interest of equal justice for all in the communities that police and deputies serve. It must be replaced with a ‘CITIZENS OVERSIGHT BOARD’ model, in which the ‘us against them’ mentality is replaced by retraining officers and deputies that they are not in any way SEPARATE or ‘elite’ from the citizens they are sworn to serve…

On the contrary, the citizens ARE the police, and the officers and deputies serve at the citizens’ discretion, and their continued employment is at the constant discretion of the citizen oversight board. This was described in detail in part one, and I will include a link to it at the bottom of this sequel.

Now for PART TWO of the innovative leadership required from the right candidate for Sacramento Sheriff in 2018…

The second major priority that will be needed from the next elected Sheriff will be to take the lead in creating and facilitating at least 2 ‘homeless safety zones’ on opposite ends of the county.

Homeless97YrsOldThe ‘NIMBY’ (not in my backyard) angry denigrating of the homeless in Sacramento by individuals in practically every area of our town has been allowed to go unchecked for too long by city and county politicians. Too many of our elected leaders have historically been more worried about alienating voters in their districts on this issue, than leading with the necessary solutions the majority of citizens know are critical and necessary to properly deal with the homeless epidemic we are facing.

The solution that we know is necessary is to create and properly facilitate permanent ‘safe zone’ areas where the homeless will be permitted to reside in our community.

HomelessGirlThe solution we know is necessary is to recognize that the majority of homeless do not have a place they know they can legally belong…and to recognize that they are our neighbors just as much as the neighbors who live next door to us. It is up to those of us with means to do what we can to help them recover from the down and out despair in which they are living day in and day out.

As such, at a MINIMUM, we have a humane obligation that the right candidate for Sheriff in 2018 will prioritize…That being to invest and implement the appropriate infrastructure – popular or not – that is necessary to give our community’s growing homeless population a SAFE ZONE where they can belong and get help.

Ideally, at least two locations on opposite sides of the county will be designated at the discretion of the Sheriff and the County Board of Supervisors. These homeless safe zones will allow for both temporary pitching of tents by the homeless who want to do so, and will also provide more solid structure temporary shelter, such as portable trailer units, small livable ‘tough shed’ type units, storage space, bathroom/shower facilities, daily meals, etc.

HomelessColdBut most importantly, they will be able to receive critical and necessary social services on site by qualified providers, with daily shuttle transportation to related off site providers and job training as required.

This model will also seek to designate some of the funding to be used for the creation of job opportunities to be extended to properly screened homeless individuals, who would like to be employed in various needed areas at these very safe zone communities.

When you get out and interact with the homeless, one of the first things you encounter is their common passion for independence, as opposed to feeling ‘trapped’ or beholding to a particular shelter or service provider for various reasons.

HomelessNeighborWith that understanding, as much of an emphasis as practical would be placed on allowing those homeless individuals who are screened and shown to be capable, to be part of the ‘citizen oversight’ of their safe zone community, as opposed to feeling nothing but a ‘heavy hand’ from law enforcement. This can be done in partnership with the Sheriff’s personnel, who would always be there assisting at all times with any ‘difficulties’ or security issues that might arise.

Social workers will tell you that many homeless individuals long for a chance to feel like they are a part of a community, but they need our help to create that opportunity. While a significant number of the homeless are dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, ironically their feelings of despair and abandonment in our community only create more of a downward spiral ‘gravity’ in that respect.

The significant number who are dealing with mental health issues don’t often know how to care for themselves, let alone where to get the services they need. They would find that appropriate assistance in such a safe zone model.

HomelessBagBlanketThe prioritizing of such quality, well serviced and facilitated safe zone areas will provide our homeless that very sense of community and belonging that many of them are missing. It will reduce crime by meeting many of the needs of much of our homeless, protecting them from being frequent victims of crime on the street. In addition, it will give our law enforcement officers a powerful and effective resource, where they can bring the homeless who they encounter in need and without shelter.

Designed correctly, our homeless neighbors will not feel ‘trapped’, but will feel that they can maintain dignity and independence, being free to come and go as they please, while having daily access to a place to sleep, meals, bathrooms/showers, and the social services and other opportunities they may have generally never had access to, or even known existed beforehand.

SheriffBadgeThe right candidate for the next Sheriff of Sacramento County will take the lead on this issue. And they will do so despite the inevitable number of angry ‘not in my backyard’ individuals, who routinely try to prevent such critical innovation to help those among us who have the least, and who need a humane opportunity to get back on their feet again.

This is one of the most pressing challenges our community is currently facing, and as a public safety concern for various reasons, it is very well suited for the Sheriff to take the lead on prioritizing and implementing.

(LINK TO PART ONE-…/with-upcoming-sacramen…/)

Connie Fishbaugh