Sonoma County Democrats detail support for & objections to CALLE recommendations
April 13, 2015
For more than a year, the Sonoma County Democratic Party has monitored the proceedings and deliberations of the Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force and it recently voted to approve dozens of recommendations on courses of action.
Here is a condensed summary of our findings and our conclusions:
Subject: Law Enforcement Accountability
1. Establishing an Office of Independent Auditor
The Sonoma County Democratic Central Committee strongly supports this portion of the recommendation, including review of the conduct of the entire SO employees, including the employees in the Detention Division and jail. In April 2014, overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for the creation of a robust, independent review body to oversee the operations of law enforcement in the county. The resolution said: “The Board should have the power to conduct independent investigations with subpoena power, the right to interview witnesses, and access to all investigative materials, including, but not limited to, reports of the coroner and reports by officers on the scenes.”
2. Independent and confidential audit review of internal departmental investigations of officer use of force incidents, incidents of officer misconduct and complain
This is a key function of the OIA, a bottom line. The criteria cited — complete, objective, thorough and fair — are the terms of art used in the field and we appreciate that the LEA is using them. We would add, however, that the audit should also scrutinize how complaints are screened, how they are classified and recorded, and whether the dispositions were timely.
3. Creating an OIA Citizens Advisory Committee.
The SCDCC strongly supports citizen involvement in the oversight process, and this is a creative and appropriate way to institutionalize it. Unfortunately, the recommendation does not address how the Committee would be constituted. In our SCDCC resolution we called for a “Board of volunteers, [who] should be appointed by elected officials with the makeup of the board reflecting the racial and ethnic diversity of Sonoma County.” Does the LEA envision that the BOS would appoint the members? Would we run the risk that appointments by elected officials will simply reward their supporters? Should there be an application process similar to the Grand Jury with screening by judges, removing the process from our politicians? This is a significant issue and should be addressed.
4. Separating the Office of the Coroner from the Office of the County Sheriff.
The LEA is correct that there is a built in conflict of interest when the sheriff is also the coroner. The SCDCC agrees that the offices should be separated.
Subject: Community Oriented Policing
1. Improving Critical Incident Response
We regard this recommendation favorably. At the site of a critical incident, the presence of a non-uniformed officer, trained in interpersonal relations and communications can serve community members by responsibly informing them of what is occurring, calm them with respectful & informative communications, and can actually enlist the helpful engagement and cooperation of community members in resolving the situation. We regard very favorably the sustained efforts with community communication & engagement (remaining on the critical incident scene until community mood has settled), publicly announcing and then conducting a community forum (within 5-7 days with thoughtful planning of this forum taking place within 48 hrs), as well as clearly posting press releases and audio and video of the incident.
2. Enhance Alternative Use of Force Practices
There is perhaps nothing more crucial to repairing public trust in local law enforcement than reform of the use of force policy. The Task Force has heard testimony from families who found a family member dead at the hands of law enforcement, when their hope was that a crisis situation would be defused. We are in support the recommendation aligning the Sonoma County law enforcement agencies’ use of force policies with recent Albuquerque, NM and Seattle, WA models. The principles governing the use of force policies required in Albuquerque and Seattle serve to define, limit, report on and track the use of all forms of “force”. The policies spell out disciplinary action for officers who violate any use of force policy. They also spell out officer responsibility to seek medical care for individuals injured by use of force. In addition these policies spell out training for officers and procedural guidelines for interacting with individuals with mental illness or disability.
Subject: Community Engagement and Healing
1. Establishing full-time counselors in schools, extending their duties beyond students to families and staff and training them to provide trauma and on-going counseling.
SCDCC recommends that resources instead be found to increase behavioral health counseling through clinics and other agencies, with outreach to families and communities as well as schools. Potentially, many of the services can be reimbursed because of new medical insurance requirements.
2. Expanding the number of school resource officers to provide law enforcement, support students the school community and to provide education in public safety and the law.
SCDCC recommends that the expansion of school resource officers be explored in detail to determine which schools would benefit most, and to determine the further training in community policing they receive, with respect to law enforcement needs, educational environment and overall benefits to the student community. The funding sources from schools, cities and county should be clarified.
3. Continuing to hold regular community forums for residents and law enforcement to interact, question and develop better relationships.
SCDCC recommends that the proposed forums between law enforcement and the community be integrated with community engagement meetings taking place in cities and unincorporated areas to gather input from residents about their concerns. Some of these meetings could use the same principles that the healing subcommittee used in their forums to foster positive interaction between law enforcement and the community. It is essential that there be a procedure in place to follow through on the questions, criticisms, suggestions and other feedback that arise from these meetings.