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Sunday, January 27, 2013 – Noon

Since there’s much back and forth on the original story. Let me expand a little further.

The point being expressed is that newly-appointed Sheriff-Coroner John McMahon, who’s been at the helm less than one month, has to choose his course.

First, I won’t refer to McMahon as “Johnny Mac”, as many do, because it’s unprofessional for a sheriff to be referred to as such, unless maybe you’re in Mayberry or speaking to someone on a bowling team.

Now the choices for McMahon are to either continue the culture of his predecessors or clear the table and lead with a open and fair hand.

It’s likely, mainly due to politics, that the later will be the case. I hope I’m wrong though.

For those involved, doing the right thing is mostly a foreign concept to say the least. But in today’s world, openess and fairness is now the smart way to go.

The electronic age of communication has complicated life for the department. In other words too much information gets out to the community. And for the departments executive staff, it’s reportedly hell. Whether it’s blogs read by the media and others, or new public databases, it’s all bad for agencies that have a significant amount of dirty laundry.

In other words it’s easier to obtain information and put two and two together.

For the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s department it’s been the rule of who knows the most dirty laundry and is not afraid to use it, gets protected and in many cases promoted.

It’s not always the situation. But usually it is.

I don’t keep a close watch on the Sheriff’s operation, or the union for that matter. Frankly, I could personally care less. But, I do speak to some currently on the department, and others retired from the agency. To be honest, I have to scratch my head at what I hear from them and read in the newspaper.

If I’m asked, I’ll give my opinion.

Any agency that operates like an aristocracy is bound for problems.

Retired Sheriff-Coroner Rod Hoops made no bones about advancing his friends and keeping the dirty laundry in the closet. More so than his predecessor Gary Penrod. Now comes McMahon, who is already carrying on in Hoops tradition, when making promotions.

The downside of the practice? McMahon can’t promote the entire department. As employees within figure this reality out, they eventually become “disgruntled”, a favorite department term. Those employees, who feel they are more deserving based on their record of performance, and usually they are, start spilling on various scandals occurring within.

Something much harder to do twenty years ago, when the department was smaller, and avenues for leaking information were non-existent.

For example. Sex scandals per se.

In the early 1990′s, at the newly-opened West Vally Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, a male deputy was caught having sex with a female inmate in a video conference room. There were multiple encounters.

The corrective action? Give the female inmate a few thousand dollars, a plane ticket to Las Vegas, drop her case, have her sign a release of liability and tell her never come back to the county. The deputy? He was allowed to quietly resign.

Today, the incident would be in the newspaper and charges filed against the officer.

Let’s revisit the P.O.S.T. pay scandal again.

The hard reality here? A private meeting was held between the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office on how best to handle the delicate situation affecting many, including department brass. A situation that had began to leak out through blogs. Ultimately, the decision was made to convene a grand jury and target a select few. Mainly the key perpetrators, but a few others were thrown into the mix. Then let the statute of limitations lapse on the rest.

An indictment was handed down. A press conference was had.

The instant problem here? Some innocent people were hammered, plus those culpable and charged are most likely sharpening a blade to hit others involved, who were given a pass.

That’s the problem with throwing a rock from a glass house. Imagine the list of all the others, who the targeted one’s know were involved and complicit.

The case, which was filed March 8, 2011, is languishing in San Bernardino County Superior Court almost two years later.

One defendant has been dismissed, with another likely.

In my opinion, the case appears to be on the path to what is commonly known as a quiet disposition, or those who created this mess have figured out just how badly this case could unfold for others. A quiet dispo is a scenario where charges are dramatically reduced and the case is settled or the case is dismissed. Because if there is no settlement, a circular firing squad commences. Imagine the plethora of selective prosecution claims, not-to-mention, all those names that find their way into public court pleadings should the case proceed.

It gets ugly from there. But it’s a lesson to be learned on how not to protect some.