Mar 16, 2020
By Jerry Threet
All communities want and deserve the most effective and responsive Sheriff’s Office that can be achieved in Sonoma County. Best practices in modern law enforcement emphasize community-oriented policing and corrections practices, including collaborating with independent, effective civilian oversight. Effective civilian oversight facilitates increased transparency, which is necessary for increased trust between law enforcement and all communities.
In 2016, Sonoma County took a great stride toward workable oversight in response to the Andy Lopez shooting and the previous history of community trauma involving law enforcement and the Sheriff’s Office. After three years of experience with the current IOLERO Ordinance, however, it is clear that changes are needed make IOLERO more effective and realize it promise. The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (“NACOLE”) has established core principles for effective oversight of law enforcement.
The EVELYN CHEATHAM EFFECTIVE IOLERO ORDINANCE will ensure that IOLERO meets the NACOLE principles of effective oversight. The result will be a more independent, transparent, effective civilian oversight office that can better assist the Sheriff’s Office in improving its operations. We all want the Sheriff’s Office to be the best that it can be. This measure will help ensure that goal is achieved.
The new ordinance will make several changes to bring IOLERO in line with the NACOLE principles of effective oversight. Those principles include independence, sufficient resources, clear authority, and unfettered access to the information and staff needed to accomplish the agency’s mission of oversight.
The proposed ordinance would secure IOLERO’s independence by making the Director appointed for a term of three years, removable for cause only by a 4/5 vote o the Board of Supervisors. This contrast with the current appointment where the Director serves at the pleasure of the Board and can be removed at any time for any reason.
The new ordinance would guarantee IOLERO adequate resources with a minimum budget of 1% of the Sheriff’s budget, a benchmark that has been accepted as a best practice for oversight agencies by NACOLE. That contrast with the current budget of IOLERO, which is about .36% of the Sheriff’s budget. This lack of resources has severely hampered IOLERO’s ability to meet its missions.
The new ordinance would set out IOLERO’s clear authority to perform its missions and mandate cooperation by the Sheriff, where currently all cooperation is entirely voluntary and can be ended at any time by any Sheriff. And it will require IOLERO review all investigations of serious misconduct by a deputy. It also will require IOELRO independently investigate any death at the hands of a Sheriff’s deputy, and provide subpoena power to do so.
Finally, the ordinance amendments will guarantee IOLERO direct, unfettered access to the information and staff of the Sheriff’s Office, where currently such access depends on the discretion of the Sheriff and his staff. Without such unfettered access, IOLERO can never certify that an investigation has been complete and reached the correct findings.
For additional reading on this topic - please see:https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/sonoma-county-law-enforcement-review-and-outreach-march-2020
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