Feb 28, 2020
By Susan C. Lamont
Member, Committee To Support an Effective IOLERO
Almost twenty years ago, in response to many incidents of excessive use of force by local officers, the California Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report recommending that Sonoma County require a civilian review board to oversee the Sheriff’s Office.
Andy Lopez was born one month after the report was issued. It would take Andy’s killing by a Sonoma County deputy thirteen years later to create the momentum for such a board. Finally, in 2016, the County created the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO).
The task force which created IOLERO was made up of twenty-one diverse community members. Its goal was to make both the residents and law enforcement officers safer. Effective civilian oversight facilitates increased transparency, as well as increased trust between law enforcement and all communities.
The task force set forth several guidelines for achieving these goals. They were: “community education and outreach; conveying feedback from the community on law enforcement issues; provision of a neutral location for complaint filing; public discourse regarding policies and procedures; advice and recommendations regarding policies and procedures; complaint tracking and trend analysis; annual reporting to the Board of Supervisors, the Sheriff and community on the work of the OIA [which became IOLERO] on the status of law enforcement oversight; and finally, independent and confidential audit review of internal departmental investigations of officer use of force incidents, incidents of misconduct, and corrective action taken.”
Four years after the creation of IOLERO, its mission remains unfulfilled for lack of money, inadequate staffing and the Sheriff’s Office withholding access to information.
Both the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) and President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing have established core principles for creating law enforcement agencies which make everyone safer. Sonoma County deserves a Sheriff’s Office based upon those principles. Evidence shows that collaborative, informed civilian oversight facilitates transparency and accountability that benefits both law enforcement professionals and the citizens they have sworn to protect and serve.
NACOLE recommends independence from political interference, sufficient funding, unfettered access to law enforcement records and staff, clear and ample authority, policy and pattern analysis, community engagement and support, cooperation, public reporting, and transparency.
Last year, concerned community members and IOLERO’s first director came together to work to improve the effectiveness of IOLERO, based upon these NACOLE recommendations. Retired Director Jerry Threet used his three years experience in IOLERO to identify the shortcomings of the office. The Committee To Support an Effective IOLERO has created an ordinance to make these recommendations real. We are working to place theEvelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance (FPPC#1422712) on the November 2020 ballot. The ordinance is named after one of our committee members, Evelyn Cheatham, who died while we were beginning our campaign. Evelyn was a member of the Community Advisory Council of IOLERO and, as an activist and mentor to disadvantaged youth through her nonprofit Worth Our Weight, embodied the world we wish to create.
The ordinance can be found on the website socoeffectiveoversight.org., as well as the history which led to its creation, a list of endorsers (including both Sonoma County’s Democratic Party and Green Party, the ACLU of Northern California, Santa Rosa Sonoma County Branch of the NAACP, the North Bay Organizing Project, North Bay Labor Council, the National Organization for Women (NOW) Sonoma County and many more) and ways for you to volunteer and donate. The deadline for gathering 22,000+ signature is the beginning of May and we could use your help. And if you see a signature gatherer, please sign!
Ordinance Text & Counsel Summary available for download or viewing below
Texto de la Ordenanza y un Resumen hecho por los Abogados del Condado disponible para descargar o ver más abajo
Today, all over the United States, communities are recognizing that one of the best tools for keeping our First Responders and communities safe is independent, effective, civilian oversight. It has been twenty years since that U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report. It is time for Sonoma County to make effective oversight a reality.
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