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Sonoma Valley Peace and Justice - Community Task Force Proposals

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Sonoma Valley Peace and Justice - Community Task Force Proposals

Sonoma County's Best Kept Secret

Can't make it out to go to a public meeting on a work night?  Do you have something you would like to say about police policy or the Andy Lopez death, but you can't stand crowds, or do not know where to turn? Well, now is the time and we know the place for you to speak out.

The county has provided us with a wonderful and easy to navigate website which has had little press coverage. The purpose is to both keep us informed and allow for our input, views, and comments on any of the Sonoma County Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force recommendations made by each of the three subcommittees. Sadly the address for this website, irregardless  of all the articles in the papers, has been rarely published.  It is: http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Community-and-Local-Law-Enforcement-Task-Force

The subcommittees have spent months drafting these recommendations and now is the time for us to put the "Community" into the Task Force title by voicing our concerns. You need not respond to all the recommendations but there must be a few about which you feel strongly enough to respond.

Two of the subcommittees have finished their drafts and await your comments.  The third will finish theirs on Feb. 2, 2015.

Sonoma Valley Peace and Justice would like to take a moment and add a few comments that we doubt will ever be discussed by the Task Force. First we express our agreement with one that is up for recommendation. We believe that the Coroner's Office and the Sherriff's Office should be separated for reasons of accountability.

Here are three more recommendations we would like to propose to the Task Force.

We have studied several models now used.  We prefer the model of Eugene, Oregon.  It is a rare two step model that could be reviewed once the public trust has been restored. Perhaps in twenty years? After all there have been close to sixty (60) police related deaths since 2/98 in this county alone. The average for the whole US is six hundred (600) a year, which we find shocking. The two step model in Eugene has an Office of Police Auditor to watch over the police.  Then they have a Citizen's Review Board, to oversee the Office of Police Auditor. Tough but maybe necessary. After all Sonoma County has paid out around 2.5 million dollars in officer involved Civil Suits these past few years.

Our other two issues lay within the Sheriff's Department itself.  We believe that the act of voting is in itself a form of accountability. Yet how can there be any accountability when for virtually the last 20 years the candidate for Sheriff has run unopposed. Yes, unopposed for 20 years! We want choice, we want accountability, and we want true democracy in this process. Otherwise who is there to "elect"?

For our third suggestion we wonder if there is any reason that the meeting of the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chief's Association should not be open to the public? After all this is where police policy and procedure is decided. One of our members, a veteran, was told by the Sheriff that the policy in Sonoma County is "shoot to kill". We believe there is fodder for a great debate on this issue. Let us have that debate, like any community should be able to do, at anytime about any police or other policy or procedure. Open debate will go a long way towards restoring community trust. 

Sixteen years ago (1999) the United States Civil Rights Commission Advisory Committee met here in Sonoma County. They recommended that the County establish a Civilian Review Board. The police strongly objected so the recommendation fell on deaf ears. There is still a strong objection to this recommendation today. Therefore we hope that this time there will be change and action on the part of the county.  We hope that all the time that the Task Force has invested in this project will not be in vain.

We would like to thank the Task Force for all their hard work and dedication.  We thank all the journalists that have chosen to to spend their time informing us, the community, about these events. Most of all we thank the County of Sonoma for the hard work that went into this all too often not mentioned web site. 

Again the web site address is:
http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Community-and-Local-Law-Enforcement-Task-Force

Patty Mount
Sonoma Valley Peace and Justice