Sheriff Parkinson blames health department for Andrew Holland’s death

March 20, 2018

Sheriff Ian Parkinson

In response to an outcry triggered by the release of the video showing a mentally ill man’s gruesome death in the San Luis Obispo County Jail, Sheriff Ian Parkinson issued a statement saying the sheriff’s office did not break any rules in the Holland case and that much of the blame lies on SLO County’s mental health division. [Cal Coast Times]

Early last year, Holland began harming himself while in jail, and sheriff’s deputies strapped him naked in a restraint chair for 46 hours. Holland died shortly after deputies released him from the chair and dumped him on the cement floor of the drunk tank, where he succumbed to a blood clot that traveled from his leg to his lung.

Following Holland’s death, in an apparent coverup, the sheriff’s office disbursed false information including that Holland likely died of respiratory arrest, that Holland was continually under a physician’s care, that his department followed state laws regarding the treatment of the mentally ill and that medical staff had ordered that Holland remain in the chair. Additionally, the sheriff’s office claimed Holland was out of control and that deputies kept him restrained in the chair because he was uncooperative, claims that were disproven by jail logs, sources and now the video.

On Saturday afternoon, dozens of protesters, including San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon, gathered outside the SLO courthouse seeking the resignation of Parkinson and District Attorney Dan Dow. Both Parkinson and Dow are currently running for reelection.

Also on Saturday, Parkinson issued a statement that “responds to claims” about Holland’s death. Parkinson said in the statement that the sheriff’s followed all rules regarding use of restraints and that any claims otherwise are completely false.

While it is unclear whether the sheriff’s office indeed complied with all rules regulating the use of restraints in Holland’s case, inspectors have found that SLO County Jail staff previously violated state regulations. Following previous jailhouse deaths, inspectors from the Institute for Medical Quality found numerous problems with SLO County’s treatment of inmates, including the sheriff’s office use of restraints, such as a restraint chair.

According to a 2015 inspector’s report, deputies failed to document reasons for keeping inmates restrained longer than two hours and failed to get a mental health consultation within eight hours of placement in restraints. Those practices violate California’s Title 15 standards for detention facilities.

In Holland’s case, jail medical staff said they recommended against placing Holland in the chair. However, deputies would not listen to them.

Additionally, the 2015 report revealed that deputies were confining mentally ill inmates in safety cells for a week or longer. Safety cells are small concrete cells with rubber padding, no bedding and a hole in the floor for human waste.

Over the month prior to Holland’s death, he was held naked in a security cell for several weeks.

While attributing blame for the death to SLO County’s mental health division, Parkinson said in his statement that the sheriff’s office requested multiple times that Holland be transferred to a mental health facility. However, the mental health division refused to accept Holland, claiming they were already at capacity, when that was not actually the case, Parkinson said.

The 2015 inspector’s report likewise noted that SLO County had been violating Title 15 as a result of the mental health facility’s refusal to admit more than a few mentally ill transfers from the jail at a time. As a result, inmates who were ordered by a court to check into a mental health facility often languished in the jail for weeks or months, inspectors found.

One aspect of the Holland case that has drawn the ire of many local residents is that the video footage from the jail shows deputies smiling and possibly laughing as Holland was dying. Though protesters and critics have frequently raised that issue, Parkinson did not address it in his statement.


Parkinson’s statement:

“Human life is precious. Jail regulations are intended to protect both inmates and staff from harm and injury. The Andrew Holland case was no exception.

As a matter of record, on January 20, 2017 (a Friday), Andrew Holland was serving a 2-year sentence at the county jail for a crime of violence. Mr. Holland had a long history of violence and mental illness. He had voluntarily stopped taking his medication. Medical and jail staff observed Holland repeatedly striking himself with his fists and had bloodied his face.

The sheriff’s office contacted county mental health multiple times requesting that Mr. Holland be transferred to the mental health facility for treatment. The mental health department refused to accept him, claiming that they were at “capacity.” It was later determined that their claim was untrue and mental health could have taken custody of Mr. Holland for treatment. Two doctors, one from mental health and one from public health, conferred about the Holland case on that Friday night and refused to have him transferred to the mental health facility for treatment. They also failed to adopt a plan to involuntarily sedate the inmate.

The sheriff’s office had no alternative other than to place Mr. Holland in restraints. Use of restraints is strictly regulated by a six-page set of rules about every aspect of this process. Citizens of our county and especially all inmates have every right to expect that the sheriff’s office will follow these rules whenever restraints are used. The sheriff’s office followed these rules at all times during this incident. In accordance with these rules, the entire process was videotaped and careful logs were kept concerning every step in the process. Any claims that the rules about use of restraints were not followed by the sheriff’s office are completely false.

While Mr. Holland was restrained, the sheriff’s office asked mental health for authorization to forcibly medicate the inmate so that he could be removed from the restraint chair. The sheriff’s office does not have the legal authority to involuntarily sedate an inmate. The mental health department refused to classify this situation as “an emergency” which would have permitted involuntary sedation. This decision was a failure of the mental health system.

The large settlement against the county with the Holland family came from the medical malpractice insurance of county mental health; it was not based on any wrong-doing of the sheriff’s office.

For several years before this incident the sheriff’s office had requested that the county provide authority to allow mental health staff at the county jail to involuntarily medicate violent inmates. Following this incident, the sheriff’s office requested, and the county approved, the hiring of a chief medical officer (CMO) to serve exclusively at the county jail; which finally gives the sheriff’s office CMO authority to sedate violent inmates.

The sheriff’s office and the county have been and will remain focused on affecting positive change on mental health issues in our community.”


Did Ian Parkinson go to the Board of Supervisors and ask for help with the crisis in the jail? He went to the Board of Supervisors and asked for a Panga Boat Catcher and Unicorn catcher, he asked for a substation at Trilogy golf course, he asked for raises for his deputies when no one else was getting them. So, did he go to those who could actually DO something and ask for help?


It’s time for Parkinson step down! Seriously. As well as those responsible for Holland’s death to be criminally charged.

George Bailey


Irrespective of your political persuasion, Sheriff Ian Parkinson has engaged in a campaign of deliberate deceit, and fake news is no substitute for government officers doing their jobs. The fact remains that Andrew Holland died while in Parkinson’s custody, and any attempt by the Sheriff to change the narrative to blame other county agencies is both wrong and irresponsible.

It is regrettable that the so-called ‘SLO Progressives’ have attempted to make this a political issue to capitalize on, because Parkinson, in fact, is a liberal and they only are using this issue to try to gain politically. Heidi Harmon & Co. have no shame, and, as usual, their transparently political theater falls short.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson needs to be removed from office, and Dan Dow has shown here he is not competent either. Lastly, Sheriff’s Spokesperson Tony Cupola participated in deliberately misleading the public, and deserves to lose his job as well.

Just saying,



No matter the outcome of this, it will not please everyone. It seems like most people on this forum will not be happy unless heads roll.


How about if people are just help accountable for their actions and inactions……


Heads *should* roll on this. What if it were your kid held in a chair for two days?


Jorge Sorry but are serious? This town is just like Mississippi or Alabama. Three cheers for the KKK!

Heil Hitler!


100% totally agree with you. These ‘profound’ words from Parkinson are nothing more than meaningless verbage for the sole purpose of making himself and his deputies look innocent of any mis-handling of this prisoner.

Hopefully, the vast majority of the voting citizens will easily see through this

charade and see Parkinson for what he really is – a self-serving, ego-driven, power-hungry individual that will always find a way to point the blame at someone else. The culprit seems to be the two doctors (1 from mental health and 1 from county health) that refused to take any action. If true, why not publish their names – get it out and on the record as who didn’t do what. As you state ” We must demand accountability at the top, and taxpayers are paying huge legal settlements AND huge salaries to the very people who are betraying our trust.” Until those in elected office are shown that they can not get away with things like this – nothing will change.


Again, Harmon’s opportunism is rewarded with another mention in the press. She’s so skilled at talk the talk, but cannot seem to walk the walk.

George Bailey

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Here we see the disingenuous statement by Sheriff Ian Parkinson, a man desperate to hang onto his own job. The effortfully flat, however, because most of us know that he would a=say and do anything to grasp to power.

I will no longer ofer any support to Ian Parkinson because I know that he is willing to let mentally ill prisoners in his care be killed by the very staffers sworn to protect them. Parkinson attempts to justify the death of Andrew Holland by scapegoating the county mental health system, but he fails to explain away that Mr. Holland died naked on the floor writhing in pain, ON HIS WATCH, not theirs. Sheriff Ian Parkinson allowed his deputies to leave Andrew Holland locked up for 48 hours straight, and refuses to even discipline the deputies who stood by laughing as Andrew Holland lie dying on the floor.

I say let’s run Ian Parkinson, Dan Dow, Tony Cupla and the involved laughing deputies out of their jobs by charging them with criminal malfeasance, obstruction of justice and covering up crimes. We must demand accountability at the top, and taxpayers are paying huge legal settlements AND huge salaries to the very people who are betraying our trust.

Can anyone identify the deputies involved who were caught on camera laughing? Please provide their names ASAP.

Mr. George Bailey

Speak Truth To Power.

Jorge Estrada

I do not believe as you said, “Sheriff Ian Parkinson, a man desperate to hang onto his own job”, my sense is that he continues to grow as a sense of duty. Just look at his picture, this old man is already eligible to retire with more income than most working stiffs. He continues to grow and participate in activities that bring law enforcement to the public. His demeanor brings the public within his reach. I certainly see no public benefit to incite a riot and promote hate for what was an unfortunate illness that was trapped in the incarceration venue. As I sit back and listen to this witch-hunt I then realize that this behavior has survived mid-evil times, a mindset for only bad choices.


Sheriff Parkinson and his deputies are all nothing less than disgusting PIGS…!