Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office sorry for ‘heartless’ tweet
An offensive tweet about a free ride to the Santa Clara County Main Jail was called out for being insensitive by advocates. Photo by Newsha Naderzad.

    The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office is under fire this week after sending out a Valentine’s Day tweet considered insensitive and unprofessional.

    The now-deleted tweet appeared to make a joke about the department providing a free ride to jail for people with outstanding warrants who forgot to buy a Valentine’s Day gift. The social media post also featured three county officials grinning at the camera while holding heart-shaped decorations.

    “Didn’t get a last minute gift for your significant other and have an outstanding warrant? Say no more, stop by our records division for a quick warrant check and a free lift to the main jail!” the tweet reads.

    A copy of the since deleted tweet from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. Photo courtesy of Silicon Valley De-Bug.

    Raj Jayadev, founder of community organizing group Silicon Valley De-Bug, said the tweet reveals the culture at the sheriff’s office. The county’s main jail has been known for its inhumane conditions, he said. The facility is also plagued with controversies, including the death of Michael Tyree while in county custody and a string of serious injuries in recent years.

    “And they think it’s funny or cute to joke that they’re sending people to that place,” Jayadev told San José Spotlight. “This is cruel, pathetic and heartless.”

    The social media post garnered swift backlash from local social justice advocates and groups, who called the tweet cruel and tone-deaf.

    “This is really depressing. What does a warrant look like to me? A crying parent taken from their child right after having landed an awesome new job. Missed birthday parties. A mom skipping meals or medicine to pay a court debt,” Emily Galvin-Almanza, executive director of social justice group Partners For Justice, said in a tweet.

    Facing mounting backlash, the sheriff’s office took down its post and issued an apology on Twitter.

    Sheriff Bob Jonsen said the post was made in poor taste and vowed to not let it happen again, adding his office is looking to implement accountability measures for social media posts. His office isn’t looking into any disciplinary action over the tweet.

    “The post came down because it definitely did not meet my expectations,” Jonsen told San José Spotlight. “We apologized because it wan’t done in a professional manner. I have no reason to expect anything like this to happen again.”

    The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office has been scrutinized in recent years for a string of controversies, including corruption allegations and issues in the county’s jail. Jonsen’s predecessor, Laurie Smith, ended her nearly 50-year career in disgrace after a civil jury found her guilty on corruption and willful misconduct charges last year.

    The county is also in the process of figuring out how to move forward with the delayed construction of a new jail to replace its outdated facilities. County officials are gathering community feedback before approving a new plan.

    Jonsen has reached out for a conversation with Silicon Valley De-Bug following the tweet, Jayadev said. But the social media post is still a slap in the face for local advocates working with the county to find alternatives to incarceration, he added.

    “It just shows that any of these gestures that they’re making in these board meetings and public safety committee meetings are false,” he said. “(This post) is a true reflection of who they are.”

    Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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