by Zaineb Mohammed, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Oakland, Calif. – On Tuesday, Nov. 21, more than 100 community members gathered at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors building to demand an audit of Sheriff Gregory Ahern.
“We are calling on our county officials to be vigilant and protect our taxpayer dollars,” said Darris Young, senior organizer and advocate with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “Our Board of Supervisors have a responsibility to make sure the budget is being spent effectively to promote community safety, and continuing to increase the sheriff’s budget is not making us any safer.”
Advocates highlighted how in recent years more people have died in county jails, Sheriff’s deputies have abused people in the jails, and the Sheriff’s Department has offered support for prominent white supremacists. Despite these recorded abuses and the fact that the Alameda County jail population has decreased by half over the last decade, the Board of Supervisors continues to increase the Sheriff’s budget.
During the rally, community organizers displayed question and answer signs, asking how much the sheriff is profiting off of people in jail, how much the sheriff spends on jailing people whose cases are dismissed or never filed, how the sheriff collaborates with Trump on deporting immigrants, and more. Ella Baker Center organizer and advocate Tash Nguyen unveiled the answers to the questions during the rally, revealing the lack of transparency and accountability from the Sheriff’s Department.
“The sheriff is running a corrupt department and is allowing deputies to abuse people in the jails,” said Nguyen. “People inside the jails are committing suicide. This is a department that needs monitoring and oversight, not more money.”
The signs also highlighted information that is not publicly available, but would be uncovered by an audit. For example, advocates say an audit would make known how much money the sheriff makes by leasing jail beds to other counties.
Increasing the sheriff’s budget has meant less investment in resources that can help communities thrive – like job training; healthcare, including mental health services; access to affordable housing; and youth development services.
“My community needs more investment in resources for youth,” said Tracey Bell-Borden, a community activist who is also a member of the Ella Baker Center. “We need more community centers and spaces for youth to connect with each other, not more money going to law enforcement.”
Advocates argue that a management and financial audit of Sheriff Ahern will reveal how this department is spending taxpayer dollars, improve transparency and accountability, and uncover potential savings that can be invested directly back into communities to promote greater, stability, security and safety. They are asking community members to call the Board of Supervisors and demand an audit of the sheriff.
Contact Zaineb Mohammed at email@example.com.