Palm Springs City Council might join the ACLU’s Request for an investigation into Sheriff Chad Bianco

PALM SPRINGS —  Mayor Christy Holstege, who has on more than one occasion used Twitter to call on Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco to resign, is now asking the City Council to approve issuing a letter in support of the  American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) request for an investigation into Sheriff Bianco.

The request is on the Consent Agenda at the Thursday, Oct. 28 meeting. A consent agenda groups the routine, procedural, informational and self-explanatory non-controversial items typically found in an agenda.

The city of Palm Springs could vote to issue a formal request to the California Attorney General’s office in support of the ACLU’s calls to investigate the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Chad Bianco.

In September, the ACLU along with two other organizations called for Attorney General Bonta to investigate the Sheriff’s Dept. for myriad issues. A letter to the attorney general’s office outlines the list of its claims against the Sheriff’s Department. Here are a few:

  • Prison Law Office Files Emergency Motion to Protect Incarcerated People in the Face of RSD’s Failed COVID-19 Response
  • RSD Continues to Kill Riverside Residents at an Alarming Rate
  • RSD’s Jail Conditions Lead to a High Number of Fatalities Within Custody
  • Analysis of Deaths by Law Enforcement

“In sum, we write to the Attorney General’s office after exhausting all other routes to obtain basic standards of accountability and humane treatment of Riverside County residents,” the ACLU letter states. “For the foregoing reasons, the undersigned request that the Attorney General open an investigation into the Riverside Sheriff’s Department, with respect to its rampant deputy violence, persistently inhumane jail conditions, and refusal to protect people in county custody from COVID-19.”

According to Police Scorecard data cited in the ACLU letter, Black people were 1.6 times more likely than white people to be killed by police in Riverside County between 2013 and 2020.

The letter also states that the department has repeatedly rejected recommendations made by Riverside County’s Civil Grand Jury about how to improve jail operations and that California Board of State and Community Corrections has failed to adequately investigate abuses within Riverside County’s jails.

“For years, this department has demonstrated a pattern of racist policing practices, rampant patrol and jail deaths, and a refusal to comply with recommendations from oversight agencies and a court-mandated consent decree,” a portion of the letter states. “Riverside County residents, particularly residents of color and low-income residents, have suffered immeasurably as a result.”

Some 31 other organizations signed the letter , including Starting Over Inc. and Riverside All Of Us Or None, two groups focused on helping currently and formerly incarcerated people in Riverside County.

A draft letter for the City Council to consider is included in the Council’s regular meeting packet of information.

It raises several other concerns, including Bianco’s 2014 purchase of a membership in the Oath Keepers.

The letter also mentions what it describes as a sheriff’s office refusal to enforce public health mandates. The letter links to an interview with NBC Palm Springs in which Bianco responded to inmates concerns about crowding in the jail during the pandemic by saying “if you’re afraid or you don’t have the money to bail out of jail, don’t commit a crime.”

“Bianco’s statement and enforcement choices have communicated to the public that he himself will pick and choose which laws to enforce based on his own personal beliefs,” the draft of the letter in the Council packet states.

While law enforcement within Palm Springs is handled by Palm Springs Police rather than the sheriff’s department, the letter contends that the conduct of the sheriff’s department still has a significant impact on city residents.

“Our constituents are directly impacted by RSD’s conduct, which affects not only residents of cities and jurisdictions directly serviced by RSD (i.e. County and contract cities) or relying on RSD’s services, but also, and importantly, all of our residents and neighbors, who cross fluid regional jurisdictional boundaries multiple times daily.”

The proposed letter comes on the heels of a meeting Democrats of the Desert held last weekend.  The meeting was designed to strategize ways to oust Bianco.

Sheriff Bianco could no immediately be reached for comment.


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