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Civilian oversight of Santa Clara County jails proposed

SAN JOSE — If one Santa Clara County supervisor has his way, “meaningful civilian oversight” could soon be coming to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Corrections, roughly two years after three guards murdered an inmate in his cell.

On Wednesday, Supervisor Joe Simitian unveiled a proposal to create an office of correction and law enforcement oversight. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider the concept Tuesday.

The proposal follows a key recommendation of a blue ribbon commission that was convened in the wake of inmate Michael Tyree’s death in 2015. In June, guards Jereh Lubrin, Matthew Farris and Rafael Rodriguez were convicted of second-degree murder.

“The blue ribbon commission made it clear that establishing an office to provide meaningful civilian oversight was one of their most important recommendations; in fact, one of their two highest priorities,” Simitian said in a statement released Wednesday night.

“Now it’s our responsibility to follow through,” he continued, “and turn that recommendation into real, lasting change.”

The office would be closely modeled after the Los Angeles County Office of the Inspector General, but tailored to meet Santa Clara County’s unique needs, Simitian said.

Appointed by majority vote of the board, the director of the office would be tasked with monitoring operations of the Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Corrections, as well as reviewing use of force patterns, trends and statistics. In addition, the director would be responsible for reviewing and conducting audits, monitoring compliance with civil rights laws, and investigating specific incidents when requested.

The proposal also would establish a citizens panel to advise the office. The committee’s roles would include reviewing policy recommendations and serving as a bridge between the community and the Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Correction.

Check back for updates on this developing story.