San Mateo County jailer fired for allegedly hitting prisoners, hissing at them like a cat

San Mateo County Jail in Redwood City. Photo from Sundt Companies website.

Daily Post Staff Writer

A San Mateo County correctional officer was fired from her job after she hit two prisoners and hissed at one of them, according to documents released to the Post under a new state law that requires transparency in police disciplinary actions.

Two incidents at the women’s jail on Maple Street in Redwood City resulted in the firing of Dana Smith, according to a letter from Sheriff Carlos Bolanos.

The first incident occurred on July 31, 2016, when Smith and her partner, Denny Rivera, entered an inmate’s cell, and Smith ripped a blanket off the inmate, according to allegations made by the inmate to investigators.

Smith then allegedly hit the inmate in the arm multiple times.

While the incident was not caught on camera, Rivera, who stood outside the cell for four of the six minutes that Smith was in the cell, “exhibited facial expressions and body language that appeared uncomfortable,” according to Bolanos’ letter.

After Smith left the cell, she and Rivera kicked the door.

The inmate also claimed that Smith would hiss like a cat at her when passing her cell.

On Aug. 7, 2016, Smith allegedly hit another inmate, according to Bolanos’ letter. Smith opened the inmate’s cell door and spoke to her briefly before allegedly hitting her three times. Then she got the attention of Rivera and hit the inmate a few more times, according to the report.

Both inmates said they suffered bruises from the punches.

In an interview with a District Attorney investigator, Smith said she was surprised that the two inmates had complained about her, and that she was under the impression that she had a good rapport with them. Deputy calls hits ‘light touches’ Smith described the punches to the investigator as “light touches.”

She also told the investigator that what she called shadowboxing was something she used to try to keep inmates from getting upset or lashing out.

Smith was fired on April 13, 2017, about eight months after the July incident occurred. She had worked for the county for 11 years in the jails. Rivera was placed on unpaid leave for four days for not reporting the incidents.

Smith’s case was sent to the DA’s office to review, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Al Serrato, but the DA’s office declined to prosecute.

How investigation came to light

This investigation came to light after the county released documents to the Post under Senate Bill 1421, which requires police departments to release records related to sustained findings of police use of force, dishonesty and sexual assault.

The law went into effect Jan. 1, but the County Counsel’s Office opted not to release these records until last week, previously citing state Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s position that the law only applies to records beginning Jan. 1, 2019. But last month, a judge sided with transparency advocates, and the county, along with other agencies covered by the Post, agreed to release their SB1421 records.