Sebastappeal by Sarah Glade Gurney — July 2020
Community process to address concerns regarding police policies and racism.
The City Council scheduled two special meetings to determine the community process to address concerns regarding police policies and racism. The agendas and videos of the zoom meetings held on June 23 and
Announcing the meetings, Mayor Patrick Slayter said, “We realize that all of the public’s concerns and all of the issues cannot be addressed in just one or two meetings. These are the beginning of what we see as an ongoing collaborative process...[These meetings are] for planning our next steps in facilitating more community input and collecting more specific information about the City’s law enforcement policies and procedures....to allow the Council to make fully informed decisions as it sets priorities and policies for our future that best reflect the values of our community.”
In addition to receiving public input, the meetings included comments from Acting Police Chief Greg DeVore and a presentation on suggested future processes by Jerry Threet, the attorney who, following the fatal shooting of Andy Lopez, established the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach and served as its Director.
Here is an abbreviated list of topics for future facilitated workshops or community round tables:
• Audit of police department policies, practices, training, and procedures
• Review of statistics on types of crimes, arrests, use of weapons
• Models for a citizen oversight committee
• Criteria and process for the City’s recruitment of the next Chief of Police and future officers
• How to include all members of the community in this conversation
• Partnership with non-profit organizations to deliver mental health and social services
• Community engagement and effective methods for participation in electronic meetings
The Council considered how to move forward, including by a new Council Sub-Committee or by a new community-wide body similar to the fifteen-member General Plan Update Committee.
Addendum by SCG:Recent case of Sebastopol police protecting citizens’ constitutional rights to peaceful protest:
On Wednesday, 6-3-20, at approximately noon, a group of approximately 40 protesters peaceably assembled along sidewalks at the intersection of Sebastopol Avenue (Highway 12) and North Main Street (Highway 116) in Sebastopol. Within about an hour, the group had increased in size to approximately 200 people.
The protesters appeared to be in compliance with all traffic and other laws and did not obstruct the roadway.
At one point, members of the group asked the Sebastopol Police Department for permission to block the entire intersection for a period of nine minutes, in memory of George Floyd. The intersection is one of the most heavily traveled in west Sonoma County.
The Sebastopol Police Department obliged them.
At approximately 1 PM, Acting Chief of Police Greg Devore and Sergeant David Ginn used a patrol vehicle to block the intersection and patrolled the intersection on foot, in order to make it safe for the protesters to gather in the center of it for the event.
After approximately nine minutes, the protesters willingly moved back to the sidewalks and the roadway was re-opened for vehicle traffic.
The Sebastopol Police Department would like to reinforce our commitment, along with all of Sonoma County Law Enforcement, to protecting citizens’ constitutional rights to peaceful protest, and would like to thank all who participated for respecting the law and protesting without violence.
[Press release by Sergeant David Ginn]
Addendum by SCG: Recent case of excessive force where Sebastopol Police was involved :
"Ward, 52, led Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies and Sebastopol police on a five-mile car chase after an officer spotted a suspected stolen car. It turned out Ward was driving his own vehicle that he’d just recovered after reporting it stolen. Sonoma County sheriff's deputies confronted David Glen Ward, 52, after the car chase that ended in the rural community of Bloomfield. Ward died after being forcibly removed from his vehicle. The lawsuit alleges excessive force, failure to intervene, wrongful death and negligent supervision, among other claims. Sheriff Mark Essick announced he was moving to fire Blount when the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office made body camera video public late last year. The lawsuit says the sheriff then quietly allowed Blount to retire on Feb. 7. Internal and criminal investigations in the case are ongoing.
“It was a common belief among Sheriff’s deputies that Mr. Blount had a propensity for excessive force,” the lawsuit says, “yet department leadership knowing these dangers unconscionably disregarded them.” The lawsuit alleges that Blount was wearing “gloves with hardened carbon fiber knuckles” during the struggle with Ward, which are illegal to possess in California and are prohibited by Sheriff’s Office policies."