Inyo County Sheriff Hollowell on Bias

Inyo County Sheriff Jeff Hollowell

By Deb Murphy

Three weeks after George Floyd died of cardiopulmonary arrest from a Minneapolis police officer’s knee on his neck, the uproar seemed to turn toward reform of both bias and deadly force by police departments. Then, last Friday in Atlanta, Rayshard Brooks was shot twice in the back as he fled two police officers. Brooks had grabbed an officer’s Taser in a struggle after being arrested for falling asleep at a Wendy’s drive thru. His blood alcohol level was a hair past sober.

I was raised Catholic. A lot of religion dropped off over the years, but the part about treating people as you’d want to be treated stuck, most of the time. These last few weeks seem incomprehensible. The Civil Rights Bill was passed nearly 60 years ago; America is supposed to be a fully integrated society. Biases die hard, but law enforcement is supposed to be color blind.

So, how does local law enforcement exorcise, or at least bury far below the surface, racial prejudice? In Inyo, African Americans make up less than 1-percent of the population. Hispanics make up 22-percent; Native Americans, 13-percent. Depending on what day you check the Sheriff’s RIM site, there are far fewer white mug shots than non-white.

“There’s no room for prejudice” in Inyo County’s Sheriff’s Department said Sheriff Jeff Hollowell.

Hollowell ran through the process before officers are officially on duty. There’s six months of training, another 664 hours in the academy, 900 hours of training in Riverside. Once an officer goes through all that, he or she hits the street with a veteran officer. Even when a new officer is qualified to respond to calls, solo, he’s shadowed. Even veterans take refresher courses or are trained on “some obscure section” of the penal code. Hopefully, Hollowell said, the training program brings out any issues.

The state Police Officers’ Bill of Rights spell out how the administration deals with employees. “It’s hard to terminate,” Hollowell said. The first offense is a warning, the second, a written reprimand. The third offense, the officer spends “days on the beach” without pay. The fourth ends in termination. “It takes six to eight months,” Hollowell admitted, but eventually, “he’s gone.”

While the Department has no programs to keep people out of jail or re-direct those who serve their sentence, the Bishop Paiute Tribe, Health and Human Services and Probation do. “They work on what’s negative,” Hollowell said, “and open them up to their abilities and choices.”

The Department’s dispatches play a role in keeping rookie officers focused. “They calm them down during pursuits,” Hollowell said.

There are significant differences between California and the Midwest or East Coast, he added. Officers have a duty to intercede if their partners step over the line. If a Taser is used, the person has to be medically cleared before he or she is booked.

Inyo County’s population is a fraction of even the smaller communities in Southern California. That helps. As Jeff Thomson, Inyo’s probation chief, has said—“they’re all our family.”




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10 Responses to Inyo County Sheriff Hollowell on Bias

  1. Zane Williams June 18, 2020 at 3:01 pm #

    “No bias,” but refers to the deputies as “he.”

  2. Sherry Grob June 18, 2020 at 12:43 pm #

    What? Inyo county tolerant? In whose world?

  3. Philip Anaya June 17, 2020 at 2:33 pm #

    While some might disagree Inyo County might be considered a bit more conservative politically, than California as a whole. However folks in Inyo County seem to take a totally different approach to social issues than those in Washington and have a greater concern and take great care of each other and support the community which is what good people do. There is tolerance here for other’s beliefs and it is again what makes the Owens Valley great, as great even as it’s magnificent Sierra natural setting.
    Law Enforcement needs to reflect the community that it protects and serves. We are fortunate to have good folks protecting and serving. The job they do is one of the most difficult and is loaded with responsibilities that they deal with every minute of every day. What can I do to support their efforts? One of the things I can do. “Shop with a Cop” is 6 months away and there are new challenges. No Kmart . Covid . Lack of $$$ from the tough economy. I say time to start planning to contribute and support our Cops who support the our community. Time to ask every Cop what we can do to help them do their difficult job. Time to reach out to folks who have a hard row to hoe who might be getting into a difficult lane. If we want the best from our Cops we need to do our best for our community . Stay safe out there

    • Lauren June 18, 2020 at 4:24 am #

      In reference to the statement mentioned above “Bishop Paiute tribe, Health and Human Services and Probation do”. ” They work on what’s negative” Hollowell said.

      That right there should raise a red flag if we’re discussing concerns of bias within the community. Inyo County sheriff’s belief that the obligation to “work on what’s Negative” falls on the Bishop Paiute tribe, probation and HHS. When in reality how can you place the responsibility on them? How is that not considered bias? As Inyo County Sheriff’s, BPD and other enforcement agencies You are just as responsible for the health and safety of the public in bishop and the surrounding communities. The problem with not having Programs available to help combat “what’s Negative” is the lack of understanding, CONSIDERATION and a non bias approach by law enforcement agencies. The focus, input and involvement by sheriff’s along with training. Is the ONLY WAY OF finding SOLUTIONS to “work on what’s Negative”. If our own sherriffs think that there involvement only revolves around arrest and putting people away. There’s going to be a lot more issues headed there way, if things don’t change drastically in the near future. To consider this article non bias, or worrisome it sure seems bias and concerning. (You don’t know, what you don’t know. But you do know, that you don’t know.) [SWM: Some minor editing for clarification and readibility.]

  4. Mono Person June 17, 2020 at 2:03 pm #

    I guess I saw something completely different in regard to the Brooks….

  5. Low June 17, 2020 at 1:13 pm #

    We all need our law enforcement. The idea of defunding and getting rid of the police is ludicrous. If anything, put more money into law enforcement budget for more training that focuses on de-escalation and destressing periods. That said, there needs to be far more transparency from agencies. There should be no issue with any member of the public wanting to see a complaint file of an officer via public records request. Internal affairs investigations should not be “internal”. It should be a mixture of members of the community and ranking law enforcement personnel. The “thin blue line” BS has to go. You can’t get communities to trust law enforcement if they separate themselves. We’re all one community.

  6. Inyo K June 17, 2020 at 9:41 am #

    So how does the sheriff justify those racial booking statistics? Or did the question even get asked?

    • ODIN June 18, 2020 at 2:34 pm #

      Did I miss something? How are the booking statistics racial? If more non-white are booked, that has nothing to do with race, but everything to do with criminal activity.

  7. Steve June 17, 2020 at 6:46 am #

    Who was raised Catholic? The sheriff or the writer?


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