Dear Friends of Justice, Transparency, and Public Accountability:
Thank you so much for your support for our effort to strengthen community oversight of the Sheriff’s Office. Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, our push to put this ordinance on the ballot has been halted in its tracks. Community members not only fear close interactions necessary to gather signatures, local health officials have forbidden such interactions.
We therefore have been forced to suspend our signature gathering efforts at this time. It is possible that the governor and state legislature may make changes to state laws governing signature gathering that will allow us to become active again, such as by allowing online signature gathering. We will keep you posted should such changes be made.
IN THE MEANTIME, we are shifting our efforts to advocate that the Board of Supervisors place on the ballot all initiatives that have been filed for November 2020. This pandemic and local orders to combat it have halted multiple efforts to place citizen measures on the ballot for a vote of the people. DIRECT DEMOCRACY has been profoundly undermined by local government restrictions requiring social isolation. While these health measures may be necessary, the effects on democracy are real and concerning.
WE MUST ALL BE CONCERNED BY THE UNDERMINING OF DIRECT DEMOCRACY OCCURRING AT THIS TIME.
Finally, we emphasize again that efforts to strengthen civilian oversight of the Sheriff support that agency in being its best. They are not an attack on law enforcement. We value and respect our officers. Effective oversight will enhance community trust in law enforcement and help them do the best job possible. For example, civilian oversight across the country right now is helping law enforcement determine the best way to deal with the effects of COVID-19 on the work of officers, for the mutual protection of the health of both officers and the public.
We thank you for your ongoing support of our efforts and request that you join us in asking that our local elected officials honor the democratic process by placing on the November ballot all ballot measures that had been filed at the time local orders were issued halting signature gathering.
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We need YOUR support! Gather signatures, host a fundraiser, input data, canvass your neighborhood, and many other opportunities!
IOLERO, the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach, was established in 2016 as a result of community outrage after 13-year-old Andy Lopez was gunned down by Deputy Sheriff Gelhaus. Now, in December 2019, David Ward was killed by a chokehold used Deputy Sheriff Blount. Sonoma County needs independent, effective civilian oversight of our Sheriff's Office in order to better protect vulnerable communities including young people, immigrants, homeless people, and people with mental health challenges.
Best practices in modern law enforcement focus on community-oriented policing and collaborating with civilian oversight. Effective oversight increases transparency and accountability, which increases trust between law enforcement and all communities. IOLERO's effectiveness is currently challenged by inadequate staffing, inadequate budget, inadequate authority, and the Sheriff Office's refusal to grant IOLERO access to all relevant records and information.