By Miriam Raftery
February 4. 2023 (San Diego) -- Detectives from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department conducted an investigation and arrested Deputy Allen Wereski for bringing drugs onto jail property, after suspected cocaine was located inside his vehicle. He has been booked into the Central Jail.
Wereski has been suspended without pay from the Sheriff's Department. It is unclear what prompted the seasrch of his vehicle, and whether the suspected drug stash was for Wereski’s personal use, illicit sale or smuggling into the jail.
A statement from the Sheriff’s department says, “We are grateful to the Sheriff's detectives who worked quickly and diligently on this case. The investigation is still on-going, so limited information is available at this time.”
The statement continues, “The safety of our jails is dependent upon keeping drugs from entering our facilities and we will not tolerate misconduct from our employees. We will initiate investigations and continue to hold our employees accountable for any misconduct or potential criminal behavior.”
Police reform activist Tasha Williamson asks, “Have deputies been supplying drugs to inmates? Will the Sheriff begin to check personnel as they enter the jails for work?”
San Diego County jails have in recent years had the highest number of jail deaths of any major county in California. Many of those deaths have been due to drug overdoses, including Fentanyl. That’s prompted an investigation by the state auditor and calls for legislative reforms.
Newly elected Sheriff Kelly Martinez has announced numerous changes to reduce jail deaths and drug use, including some improvements begun while she was Undersheriff. Though Sheriff Martinez has resisted calls to screen jail workers routinely for drugs, other reforms implemented on her watch are aimed at keeping drugs out of jails and reducing overdoses.
Those changes include:
- Use of narcotic detection dogs in county jails has been increased, including the ability for every dog to detect Fentanyl.
- Naloxone, a nasal spray to reverse narcotic overdose affects, has been placed in all detention facilities countywide, accessible to both staff members and inmates. This has been administered at least eight times to save lives.
- Jails have increased use of body scanners, TruNarc testing for narcotics, and centralized processing of mail to screen for drugs and other contraband.
- New intake protocols request voluntary urine samples from people arrested. For those with signs of substance abuse, medication can be prescribed to help manage withdrawal symptoms safely and get counseling. A scoring system to evaluate alcohol and opiate withdrawal has been implemented.
- New inmates are also screened for mental health and suicide risk is evaluated.
- A five-year contract with Naphcare has been initiated to provide medical and mental healthcare in local detention facilities, with added staffing. The Sheriff’s department is seeking accreditation with the National Commission on Correctional Health this fall. The Naphcare partnership will enable jail medical staff to provide medications more quickly by accessing StateCare, a telemedicine provider, when a provider is not on-site.
- Body-worn cameras are now in use at the Las Colinas detention facility in Santee and will be rolled out to other jail facilities as renovations and infrastructure improvements for technology are made.
- In addition to wellness checks, weekly visits with service providers have been initiated for higher risk and more vulnerable individuals in jail The visits include a team of medical, mental health and reentry services staff to collaborate on care needed.
- A Certified Nurse Assistant has been added to jail staffing, along with incentives to fill vacant jail staff positions and retain current workers. A new job classification of mental health case management clinician will also soon be added.
- In early 2023, the Sheriff's Department will partner with the Department of State Hospitals (DSH) to implement the Early Access Stabilization Services (EASS) Program. The State of California has created an EASS program where mental health providers will support county jails to treat individuals who have been deemed incompetent to stand trial and are awaiting placement in an inpatient psychiatric bed in a DSH facility or a Jail-Based Competency Treatment Program.
- The Sheriff’s department also reached an agreement with the Citizen’s Law Enforcement Review Board allowed CLERB trained staff to respond to in-custody death scenes and review natural deaths in jails. The Sheriff Department’s Critical Incident Review Board also reviews in-custody deaths.
“Sheriff Martinez is committed to improving San Diego County jails,” a press release from the Sheriff’s department on jail improvements states. “She is committed to transparency and accountability and communication with the public. This update and media information is in furtherance of those goals.