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Sonoma County Law Enforcement Task Force statement to Board of Supervisors


Sonoma County Law Enforcement Task Force statement to Board of Supervisors

Robert Edmonds posted his comments on Facebook that were presented to the SoCo Board of Supervisors today on the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Task Force. Established after the shooting death of Andy Lopez, the Task Force was given the responsibility of finding solutions to create better relationships between police authority and the communities they serve, and transparency in the way law enforcement deals with conflict. Here is Robert's closing statement to the board:

First, I want to thank you all once again for initiating and continually supporting the important work of the Task Force, so long overdue in Sonoma County. And a huge thanks to the community that supported this work all along. Really, though this is just the beginning of changing the way local law enforcement and the public relate and interact in our community. The difficult work of change starts today, at the end of sixteen months of study, deliberation, and final recommendation.

As an accountability activist for many years, I surprisingly learned a lot about what I thought I knew, and about how to work together with law enforcement. I often even found myself in agreement with Law Enforcement representatives with whom we frequently worked during this process. Something I learned is that we all need to be more tolerant and inclusive of each other if we are to craft workable solutions and compromises. 

The Board and the public have now heard the complete final recommendations of the entire Task Force. I must acknowledge here that the Sheriff’s Office employee representative could not vote affirmatively for the block of recommendations as a whole, as I also struggled with voting yes for these recommendations as a block. Ultimately though, I did because this report represents the inclusion of a broad community voice that sometimes differs from my world view.

Sheriff Freitas jumped ahead of our presentation a little, with his response in the Press Democrat on May 9th. There he expressed support for implementation of select components of our recommendations, including the establishment of an Office of Independent Auditor, his reinstatement of a Community Policing unit in Southwest Santa Rosa, and implementation of body worn cameras, with major budget increases already approved by the Board for the last two.

The Sheriff’s implication is seemingly that law enforcement is already doing all they can to improve relationships with the community, and no doubt, these are some positive steps toward improvement. The reason this Task Force was created, however, is because the system that has been doing all it can for years, is the system that allowed thirteen year old Andy Lopez to be shot to death by a Sheriff’s Office Deputy, without so much as a reprimand, or substantive shifts in our local use of force policies. Since Andy was killed on October 22nd, 2013, this system has now been involved in 11 more law enforcement fatalities as defined under the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Fatal Incident Protocol. Eleven. 

Members of this task force, the public, and staff that have worked so hard on these recommendations recognize the importance of real change through a comprehensive and integrated program of reform, transparency, education, communication and enfranchisement that engages law enforcement and the public in entirely new ways of doing things. We must steadfastly continue funding and rules outside the control of law enforcement, and engage the Sheriff and the public in an overarching philosophical approach to Community Policing.

Our combined recommendations must be implemented in a structured way that will withstand budget fluctuations, political climate, and will be infused throughout local law enforcement culture, and integrated tightly into its policies, procedures, training, and education, outreach, attitudes, and cross jurisdictional collaboration.

Many of these recommendations could be implemented through the new Office of Independent Auditor, and through other county departments, and with community based partners and organizations, providing true independent oversight, review, and tracking of not only fatal incident investigations, but complaints, use of force, mental health crisis response, community outreach, youth enfranchisement, diverse inclusion, hiring practices and the list goes on.

To avoid the perception that this report is more lip service and will be another report gathering dust on an administrative shelf, it is imperative that the public be immediately included in the development and implementation phases of these recommendations once they are out of our hands. 

This report is about doing things outside of the usual processes. Given the very restrictive nature of California and Federal laws that shield law enforcement from transparent oversight and local control, we must do all we can to change that, and create the strongest, most effective set of programs, policies, practices, and procedures we can as a community. 

Sheriff Freitas said he is confident that local law enforcement can work with the board to cooperatively create a workable solution to independent oversight. Including the community, and the newly hired auditor in that process is in keeping with the spirit of our charter and our recommendations as the Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force. Thank you.



The Task Force is charged with:

  1. Reviewing options for a model for an independent citizen review body;
  2. Reviewing and recommending options for community policing to be considered with the Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget process;
  3. Reviewing and recommending whether the Office of Coroner should be separately elected from the Office of Sheriff; and
  4. Bringing to the Board of Supervisors any additional feedback from the community on these issues that merits County attention by the end of 2014 and discuss staff generated efforts on these issues. These duties are described more completely in the Community and Local Law Enforcement Charter, approved by the Board of Supervisors December 10, 2013.

- See more at:


pages 373 - 508 of the Agenda for 5/12/15