Meetings for Community Concerns Regarding Safety & Police Policies of Excessive Force and Racism

Community process to address concerns regarding police policies and racism.

This story was originally published June 27, 2020.

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 June 30 are on the City’s website on the “Meetings” page.

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.

On Wednesday, 6-3-20, at approximately noon, a group of approximately 200 protesters peaceably assembled along sidewalks at the intersection of Sebastopol Avenue (Highway 12) and North Main Street (Highway 116) in Sebastopol. Image: facebook.com/SebastopolPolice
On Wednesday, 6-3-20, at approximately noon, a group of approximately 200 protesters peaceably assembled along sidewalks at the intersection of Sebastopol Avenue (Highway 12) and North Main Street (Highway 116) in Sebastopol. Image: facebook.com/SebastopolPolice

On Wednesday, 6-3-20, at approximately noon, a group of approximately 200 protesters peaceably assembled along sidewalks at the intersection of Sebastopol Avenue (Highway 12) and North Main Street (Highway 116) in Sebastopol. Image: facebook.com/SebastopolPolice

On Wednesday, 6-3-20, at approximately noon, a group of approximately 200 protesters peaceably assembled along sidewalks at the intersection of Sebastopol Avenue (Highway 12) and North Main Street (Highway 116) in Sebastopol. Image: facebook.com/SebastopolPolice

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.

David Ward's 2003 green Honda Civic was reported carjacked on Nov. 24, 2019. It was somehow recovered, unbeknownst to police. Image: KYVU
David Ward's 2003 green Honda Civic was reported carjacked on Nov. 24, 2019. It was somehow recovered, unbeknownst to police. Image: KYVU

“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."

Full story : Editor's note: The video embedded in this story depicts violence and contains profanity. Viewer discretion is advised. https://www.kqed.org/news/11819384/lawsuit-alleges-excessive-force-by-deputy-in-sonoma-county-death

Addressing the Pandemic’s Impact on Local Businesses

The City Council retained CoMission, a local consulting firm, to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on local businesses and to recommend steps for recovery.

During May, 160 business owners completed CoMission’s Business Survey. Fifty percent of the participants were located in the Downtown Core and The Barlow. Thirty percent were from the retail, food services, and healthcare sectors. Those identified as needing immediate triage were routed to a half-hour one-on-one intake interview for help and support.

The quantitative questions covered the economic and operational impacts of the pandemic. From the respondents:

• 58% conducted 100% of their business in a face-to-face setting

• 75% conducted over ½ of their business face-to-face

• 32% were “temporarily” closed

• 3% reported they were “permanently” closed

• 22% were working remotely

• Nearly 75% indicated they’d lost over ½ of their revenue since March 17

• 25% stated they’d lost 100% of their revenue

• 35% said they’d laid off or furloughed 100% of their employees

• 75% had applied for some form of relief fund

The survey’s purpose was to determine how to better assist businesses and to understand how businesses may need to adjust to post-pandemic phenomena. Per repeated key words and phrases in the responses, the top five suggestions for help were:

• Rent reduction/elimination

• A central, trustworthy source for real-time information

• Reopening concerns, resources for guideline adherence, funds for cleanliness requirements

• Establishing a way for the community to invest in local businesses

• Reduction or elimination of taxes, fees, utilities

The July Inter-Dependence Campaign

The Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Association, and The Barlow called upon businesses to sign the Declaration of Inter-Dependence to promote a month-long campaign for the safe re-opening of the business community. Shop Sebastopol Safely will provide a calendar of events for local businesses and consumers to re-enter public space with confidence. A new Business Council, holding weekly meetings, will design promotional material, identify opportunities for partnerships between businesses and community benefit organizations, hold contests, and award prizes.

As the first signors have indicated, Sebastopol is known for its cooperative spirit and understands what it means to work together.

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