Open Letter: Board of  Supervisors Should Reject Transfer of Youth Center to Sheriff’s Office

Alameda County Sheriff Coroner Gregory J. Ahern speaks as first responders are honored during an Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. Thirty-six people died in the Dec. 2 fire on 31st Avenue and International Boulevard. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
By Gregory  J. Ahern | Sheriff-Coroner
I am writing in response to the Open Letter in the Post written by Chris Iglesias and Joe Brooks dated April 14, 2018, expressing opposition to some of the changes being discussed for operations at the REACH Ashland Youth Center (REACH).I think it is important for the public to understand that REACH likely would not exist today without the involvement and support from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) and the Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League (DSAL).

As many are aware, decades of disinvestment in unincorporated Ashland and Cherryland have resulted in a community with high rates of poverty, unemployment, crime, domestic violence, and other issues that are not as prevalent in the surrounding communities. Children and youth are hardest hit by these adverse conditions.

ACSO and DSAL worked together with county departments, residents, and—most importantly—the children and youth themselves to rebuild the community’s infrastructure, starting with advocating for the much-needed REACH center—a place where kids can go to have fun, learn, and be safe.

Over the last 12 years, ACSO and DSAL have launched and sustained a wide variety of activities for youth, including soccer, boxing, dance, art, human rights education, and much more.
These activities have attracted thousands of youth and inspired their parents and families to volunteer and become more involved in the community.

Deputies have spent countless hours working side-by-side with residents, coaching and mentoring youth, building trust, supporting emerging community leaders, and making it possible for these activities to exist; and until recently, deputies have been a consistent presence at REACH.

The idea that ACSO and DSAL are “playing politics with our youth” is misguided and ignores ACSO’s 12-year commitment to repairing historically strained relationships, and investment in rebuilding the community’s physical and social infrastructure, particularly for children and youth.

Late last year, the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency (HCSA), the operator of REACH, determined that ACSO deputies should have minimal presence at the facility.

In response to HCSA’s decision, 461 community members signed a petition objecting to the decision and requesting that the deputies be returned to the facility for the safety of the youth attending REACH.
HCSA’s services are a vital part of the equation, but those services are just one part of the multifaceted solution to rebuilding the community’s social fabric.

Supervisor Miley, who has been a champion of ACSO and DSAL’s efforts to build trust and reinvest in the community, is now weighing options and correctly inviting the community to participate in a transparent process to determine the best mix of services for residents. ACSO supports this process and looks forward to participating in the conversation.

ACSO is committed to keeping children and youth out of the school-to-prison pipeline. Our vision of public safety is based on advancing equity and helping to foster livable neighborhoods.


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