Aug. 30, 2023
By Braden Cartwright
Daily Post Staff Writer
Members of a police monitoring group in Santa Clara County say the sheriff’s office told them that chemical agents, such as tear gas and pepper spray, would only be used in the field and to control riots, not on inmates who refused to take their medication.
But a report from the sheriff’s office says deputies released a concoction of tear gas and pepper spray, called Clear Out, 17 times over the course of 11 months. Most of the time, Clear Out was dropped into cells to get mentally ill inmates to move or get a shot of medication, according to a report from police auditor Michael Gennaco.
This came as a surprise to Christine Clifford and Walter Wilson, members of the county’s Community Correction and Law Enforcement Monitoring Committee.
Clifford and Wilson wrote a memo to the Board of Supervisors on Monday asking for a chance to review the use of Clear Out in the jail before supervisors agreed to purchase more military equipment for Sheriff Bob Jonsen.
“When our committee previously reviewed the military equipment report, we recall being told by the sheriff’s office that chemical agents were only to be used in enforcement situations and would be limited to field use, riot control type situations,” they wrote.
“We were not aware that these chemical agents would be used on individuals inside the jails.”
Assembly Bill 481 required police agencies to publish an annual report on their military equipment and how it was used, starting last year.
The bill also requires police agencies to ask to buy more military-related equipment and to have a community meeting on the report.
Jonsen asked the board in June to buy his office a bomb disposal robot, 185 replacement AR-15 rifles, 370 projectiles, 116 flash-bang grenades and 40 vapor grenades.
But the supervisors delayed the purchase to get more information about how and why Clear Out was used in the jail.
Supervisor Susan Elllenberg rescheduled a discussion to Sept. 19, giving the monitoring committee time to meet with the sheriff and weigh in.