The Press Democrat Editorial Board published the following editorial on October 15th, 2020:
Measure P can be boiled down to a single word: accountability.
Elected officials, government agencies and public employees must be accountable to the taxpayers. Sheriffs and their deputies are no exception.
Sonoma County spent $6.6 million on legal settlements involving sheriff’s personnel in the past year. Attorney fees added another $2.5 million to the taxpayers’ tab, and liability insurance premiums for the Sheriff’s Office shot up 46% to $5.9 million a year. That’s $15 million altogether.
A loss of public confidence can’t be measured in dollars.
Measure P on the Nov. 3 ballot would modestly increase citizen oversight of the Sheriff’s Office with a goal of identifying problem deputies before a fatal incident or costly blunder.
Sonoma County introduced citizen oversight of the Sheriff’s Office on a limited based in 2016, acting on recommendations from a blue-ribbon commission appointed after a sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a 13-year-old boy carrying a toy gun.
But with just two employees, the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach has been understaffed for even its narrow purview — auditing internal investigations of misconduct complaints against sheriff’s personnel and making policy recommendations.
Sonoma County supervisors recently funded two more staff lawyers for IOLERO, as the office is commonly called, and Measure P would set a budget threshold for the agency of 1% of the Sheriff’s Office $184 million budget, or $1.8 million.
Measure P would expand IOLERO’s jurisdiction to reviewing complaints involving excessive force, sexual harassment or assault, bias in policing or corrections and violations of constitutional rights, as well as incidents resulting in civil lawsuits. IOLERO also would be authorized to accept whistleblower complaints.
To facilitate more robust oversight, IOLERO would gain access to investigative files and witnesses and the authority to subpoena records and testimony.
Not surprisingly, the primary opponents of Measure P are the people who would be subject to additional oversight: deputies and correctional officers at the jail.
The unions representing deputies and correctional officers filed complaints with the state Public Employees Relations Board, arguing that Measure P is a violation of their collective bargaining rights. A hearing before an administrative law judge is set for next week, but this issue almost certainly won’t be resolved before the election.
The unions also argue — disingenuously — that Measure P would mandate a spending cut for public safety programs. Nothing in Measure P requires the supervisors to cut the sheriff’s budget, and at about $400,000 a year, the mandated increase for IOLERO is a tiny fraction of the county’s 1.9 billion budget.
Sheriff Mark Essick has been more transparent than his predecessors and held deputies more accountable their behavior. But he says Measure P grants too much access to sensitive information. That’s a legitimate concern, but it can be addressed in court without invalidating the rest of Measure P.
Essick says it would have been better for the supervisors to stick with their initial plan to appoint a committee to consider changes to the oversight program, adding that a collaborative approach might have headed off legal challenges to the ballot measure.
He’s right about the supervisors rushing this measure to the ballot, but law enforcement unions have consistently resisted reform measures in California and across the country, and it seems unlikely that they would endorse any significant changes here.
For voters, the question is this: Would expanding IOLERO’s reach to cases involving excessive force, bias and civil rights violations increase accountability for the Sheriff’s Office and benefit justice in Sonoma County? We believe that it would. The Press Democrat recommends a yes vote on Measure P.
Read the original editorial here on the Press Democrat's website.
In this bad dream known as 2020, everydamnthing seems to be topsy turvy, upside down and backwards. And that’s the just outside world. Here in Sonoma County, toss in our new unprecedented fire disaster and confusion reigns supreme.
The good news is that a few important things are clear. The first is that our first responders have been putting out yet another heroic effort and we’re full of gratitude for them. And that includes the Deputies of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, to be sure.
The second is that we should have crystal clarity about the fact that Measure P - the Evelyn Cheatham Ordinance for a More Effective IOLERO - is a completely separate and unrelated issue. In that regard, passing this measure carries singular merits of major importance that cannot be ignored. Created by the Board of Supervisors after the tragic death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, IOERO is charged with independent auditing of complaints about the Sheriff’s Office; its volunteer Community Advisory Council is responsible for policy recommendations on use of excessive force, de-escalation training, racial bias issues and other areas of concern, as well as conducting community outreach to help create greater trust in the Sheriff’s Office.
Seriously underfunded, the new agency has struggled to meet its mandate and the Sheriff systematically rejects requests for records the Auditor needs to carry out a full and impartial investigation of the complaint being reviewed.
To remedy those fatal flaws, this new ordinance remedies them by granting subpoena power to the Auditor and guaranteeing adequate funding for the agency to do its job properly. The funding level written into the ordinance, which is suggested as best practice by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, is a sum equivalent to 1% of the Sheriff’s budget.
Although arguments against Measure P written by the Deputy Sheriff’s Association claim that the measure will “cut emergency services, public safety and community policing programs...take deputies off the streets,” such scare tactics have absolutely no basis in fact. The truth is that IOLERO doesn’t take one thin dime away from the Sheriff’s budget. At the same time, there is no increase in public taxes.
The truth is that excessive force and wrongful death settlements have cost taxpayers $13.1 since 2011, $6.6 million last year alone. The truth is that Sonoma County deserves greater accountability, transparency and fair policing from our Sheriff.
VOTE YES ON P!
- Kathleen Finigan
EDITOR: I suppose it’s common for political campaigns to spin arguments to benefit one side. There is even a whole industry of political fact checkers who are kept busy giving out “Pinnochios” to help voters separate fact from falsehood.
Even with that understanding, seeing signs urging a no vote on Measure P with a blatantly false tagline was disheartening. The signs say “Don’t Defund Our Deputies,” which is catchy, persuasive and a big fat lie.
Measure P doesn’t relate to or affect the budget of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. Not one penny. It relates to transparency and accountability. It is shameful that the no on P campaign would wrap themselves in the moral high ground of law enforcement and lie to voters to defeat this measure.
On further reflection, voters should see this blatant example of dishonesty as another good reason to vote for Measure P. The deputies’ union is lying to our community because it objects to reasonable oversight.
The information from the “No on Prop P” campaign is so skewed I felt I needed to add some actual facts. This proposition has nothing to do with defunding the Sheriff. It is about strengthening the citizen oversight group that offers independent review. The funds for the group come from the general fund, not out of the Sheriff’s budget. And, FYI, the Sheriff’s Office paid out more than $6.6 million in civil rights lawsuit settlements regarding excessive use of force in the past year alone, while the budget for the group is estimated to be around $1.8 million. Proposition P is intended to:
Please read the information provided by the county in the Voters handbook. Our supervisor Gorin (and the others as well) support Proposition P.
A link to the original article in Kenwood Press can be found here.
The Evelyn Cheatham Effective Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) Ordinance
Sometimes, speaking up works and it just did in Sonoma County. Sometimes, the times are right for change and this might just be that time.
For more than twenty years, community members have been working towards achieving effective community oversight of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. After the killing of Andy Lopez by a sheriff’s deputy, a partial victory was achieved with the County’s creation of the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO). But the office was created without the tools to be effective - no subpoena power, no independent investigatory power, no requirement that the Sheriff’s Office cooperate and not enough money to do the job. Measure P provides the remedy.
After a long campaign to get a measure to address these failings on the ballot in November 2020 and invigorated by the activism of the community in response to the killing of George Floyd and so many others, the proponents of the Evelyn Cheatham Ordinance convinced the Board of Supervisors to vote unanimously to place the ordinance on the ballot. As a result, you can now vote for a more effective IOLERO when you go to the polls in November.
Jerry Threet, Former Director of the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach, speaks about the ballot initiative, IOLERO’s background, Sheriff push back and the petition process:
The goal of Measure P is an office able to help guide the Sheriff’s Office to policies that have been studied across the country and found to make both the public and law enforcement officers safer. These are called “best practices.” It is common for an agency to feel threatened by change. We’ve all been there personally at one time or another. But sometimes fresh eyes are exactly what’s needed. And that’s what IOLERO is - fresh eyes.
One of the stated goals of the County, in creating IOLERO, was to build greater trust between the community and the Sheriff’s Office. Knowing that the deputies are employing “best practices” will help to foster that trust. The Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance - now Measure P - is an important step to building a Sheriff’s Office the community can trust.
Those who favor the status quo will be throwing big money against this ordinance. Please consider donating (no amount is too small!) to help us promote the ordinance and counter the misinformation which is already being spread. You can get more information, donate or volunteer by visiting socoeffectiveoversight.org.
Link to original editorial published in the Sonoma County Gazette is here.
I am reaching out to ask for your endorsement and financial support to help pass Measure P.
Passing Measure P (the Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance) on this November’s ballot in Sonoma County could change how sheriffs’ offices and police departments operate across California, serving as a model for legislation in every general law county, as well as for suburban counties across the United States.
Currently, there are only 12 jurisdictions with police reform measures on the ballot in the entire country, but those are in big cities. Sonoma County is the only suburban county in the U.S. proposing any significant reform.
If passed, Measure P will:
• Guarantee IOLERO (Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach) the budget and staff it needs to provide effective, independent oversight of the Sheriff’s Office
• Mandate IOLERO’s access to the information it needs from the Sheriff’s Office to perform its oversight functions
• Legally bind the Sheriff to cooperate with civilian oversight of his office
• Remove political interference with decisions of the civilian Director of IOLERO
• Authorize independent, civilian-led investigations of deaths of community members caused by Sheriff’s Deputies
• Improve transparency of the actions of the Sheriff, his Deputies and staff
• Elevate the role and importance of the Community Advisory Council
For more than twenty years, community members have been working towards achieving effective community oversight of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. After the killing of Andy Lopez by a sheriff’s deputy, a partial victory was achieved with the County’s creation of the IOLERO.
But IOLERO was created without all the tools to be effective – no subpoena power, no independent investigatory power, no requirement that the Sheriff’s Office cooperate and not enough money to do the job. Measure P provides the remedy.
We believe now is the time for this measure to pass, with the Movement for Black Lives, #MeToo, and the deep, widespread yearning for systemic change.
Our endorsements (below) include leaders from all over our diverse county.
Yet we face entrenched opposition to reform, from the Sheriff, Deputy Sheriffs Association and the Farm Bureau.
To help pass this urgently needed policing reform measure, we are building a broad coalition of indigenous, Latinx and black people, alongside white people. Together, we can ensure that policing and jailing is humane and responsive to all communities in Sonoma County.
NOW WE NEED YOUR HELP.
Please SHARE this endorsement and tell your friends and family to vote Yes on P.
If you are moved to donate now you can click here to donate online.
Yes on Measure P is supported by:
Sonoma County Democratic Party, NAACP, Sonoma County Black Coalition, Sonoma County Latino Democratic Club, National Organization for Women, North Bay Labor Council, Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, NACOLE, Redwood Psychological Association, North Bay Organizing Project, Green Party, ACLU, Supervisor James Gore, Supervisor Susan Gorin, Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, Supervisor Shirlee Zane, Teresa Barrett, Ernesto Olivares, Rubin Scott, Alicia Sanchez, Jerry Threet, Herman G. Hernandez, Susan Jones
Link to the original Sonoma Independent piece is here.
One sunny October afternoon in 2013 , a young middle schooler walked to a friend’s house to return a recently borrowed, air soft bb gun. He strode along side a dried and overgrown vacant lot in his Southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood, a vacant lot he would never make it past. Shot seven times by Sonoma County Deputy Eric Gelhaus, Andy Lopez’s death set in motion the long sought after quest for reforms, accountability and eﬀective community oversight of the largest law enforcement agency in the County.
That quest continues with Measure P, in the November election.
Andy’s death set oﬀ a firestorm of sustained community protests. Fed up with frequent oﬃcer involved fatalities, people took to the streets to demand accountability and change. City Council chambers, Board of Supervisors’ meetings, District Attorney oﬃces, and Sheriﬀ’s oﬃces were inundated with demands for action and justice.
Over the following year, there were few days when Andy’s name did not appear somewhere in local newspapers. Long time activists revived their calls for police reforms and community oversight recommended in the 2000 Civil Rights Commission Report, itself a response to the high incidence of police shootings and in custody deaths in Sonoma County. They were joined by an empowered Latino community, student activists, and outraged citizens throughout the region, demanding wide ranging substantive reforms.
The Sheriﬀ’s Oﬃce, the Santa Rosa Police Department (the agency investigating Andy’s shooting) and the District Attorney’s Oﬃce responded in their usual manner of declaring that no policies or laws were broken in Andy’ shooting. But the Board of Supervisors did take action. They began to look closely at the needs of Andy’s long neglected Moorland Neighborhood, and they appointed the Community And Local Law Enforcement (CALLE) Task Force to closely examine police issues and community relations. After nearly 16 months of community meetings and research, this dedicated group issued a report with dozens of meaningful and substantive recommendations. Although most of those recommendations remain unmet, the call for the creation of an independent auditor and community council was heeded in 2016, with the approval of the Independent Oﬃce of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO).
The original IOLERO oﬃce consisted of one Director/Auditor and one paid Assistant, charged with receiving public complaints about the Sheriﬀ’s Oﬃce, reviewing and auditing Sheriﬀ investigations of critical incidents and excessive force, making policy recommendations, and robust community engagement. They were assisted by a volunteer Community Advisory Council, whose purpose was to reach out to the community, hold public meetings and make recommendations to ensure that Sheriﬀ’s policies reflected best practices and community values. Although IOLERO’s recommendations and findings were not binding, the Director’s conclusions would be made public in an annual report.
The goal of this new oﬃce was to increase transparency and accountability, and thus work with the Sheriﬀ to strive for best policies and practices, increase oﬃcer and community safety, and build public trust. Unfortunately, the reality of the IOLERO charter left it without the resources or powers it needed to do its job eﬀectively.
While civilian oversight of the police dates back more than a hundred years in this country, the modern vision of community oversight is best espoused by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) established in 1995. It recognizes that every oversight body is unique, and must be tailored to fit the needs of each community, but that no matter the model they all need suﬃcient resources, independence, and the power to eﬀectively fulfill their mission.
It became clear to IOLERO’s first Director, Jerry Threet, almost from the onset, that a two person oﬃce would be unable to adequately and timely audit Sheriﬀ’s investigations of fatalities, and serious incidences of use of force at the jail and on patrol, while at the same time supporting a viable Community Advisory Council to conduct public meetings, and reaching out to disenfranchised portions of the community. Despite these challenges, through working exhaustive hours, the IOLERO began to function: reviewing complaints, auditing internal investigations, making recommendations, conducting community meetings, collaborating with the Sheriﬀ’s Oﬃce in a workable manner. The Oﬃce worked with the Sheriﬀs on limiting cooperation with ICE, Body Camera Policy, and a Homeless interaction policy.
However, as the Director continued to look at the Sheriﬀ’s misconduct investigations, he found repeated deficiencies, and was met with resistance and a lack of cooperation from Sheriﬀ’s Oﬃce. The original IOLERO ordinance did not allow him to interview the involved parties, or to require that the Sheriﬀs cooperate and provide him with the information needed, to thoroughly complete his audits.
In his 2017/2018 annual report, the director found that the initial model of civilian oversight created by the Board of Supervisors did not have the independence, resources or powers to fulfill its mission. As currently structured, IOLERO would be unable to eﬀectively monitor use of force, including deadly force by Sheriﬀ’s deputies, or to eﬀectively recommend changes in policies, practices, or trainings. It could not bring about the transparency and accountability that was initially envisioned.
From his experiences working with the Sheriﬀ’s Oﬃce, and expertise gleaned from NACOLE and national models, the Director laid out a template for a truly eﬀective oversight oﬃce that became the basis for the Evelyn Cheatham Eﬀective IOLERO Ordinance, or Measure P, on the ballot this November.
With the added recommendations of the current Director, Karlene Navarro, and the Community Advisory Council, the new ordinance would, without raising new taxes:
– mandate mutual collaboration with the Sheriﬀ’s Oﬃce;
– give IOLERO access to Sheriﬀ’s investigation/incident reports, body camera footage, evidence, dispatch records, and databases;
– establish the clear authority of IOLERO to conduct independent audits and investigations; authorize independent subpoena power to the IOLERO;
– establish IOLERO legal authority over investigations into all uses of force, constitutional violations, sexual assault or harassment, dishonesty, and bias in policing or incarceration;
– authorize IOLERO to review all stops by deputies for racial or ethnic disparities;
– guarantee a minimum budget equivalent to 1% of the Sheriﬀ’s budget, allowing for adequate IOLERO staﬃng;
– and a secure a 3-year term for the Director, with removal only for cause.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has recently recognized the IOLERO’s severe understaﬃng and begun to increase positions, however without the powers allocated in Measure P, the Oﬃce will continue to fall far short of its mission.
Sadly, there is a long history in Sonoma County of excessive use of force by deputies, leading to the death or injury of a person of color, or someone experiencing a mental health or drug crisis. Indeed, since Sheriﬀ Essick took oﬃce in 2018, there have been 9 deaths in the custody of Sheriﬀ’s deputies, along with two extreme uses of force against unarmed, unresisting Black men.
In this moment of National reckoning about race and justice, we have a chance, this November, to act locally and meaningfully to empower eﬀective oversight, to create a public oﬃce that advocates for the safety, well being , and constitutional rights of all those in Sonoma County, by ensuring that Sheriﬀ practices are unbiased, reasonable, respectful, and responsive to the community they serve.
Although, often resisted by law enforcement, eﬀective oversight benefits hard working deputies, as well as members of the public. With the continual independent push towards best practices in training and policies, and by providing alternatives to using force, eﬀective oversight improves the safety and well being of deputies on patrol or working in detention. Less excessive force also translates into fewer lawsuits and lower liability insurance costs (a problem currently plaguing the Sonoma County Sheriﬀ). Further, positive public interactions, increased transparency and accountability correspond with higher levels of public trust.
After Andy Lopez’s death, the Board of Supervisors looked at his long neglected neighborhood and the weed strewn lot where he died, and they dedicated the resources needed to create a green and dynamic community park, a place of continual benefit to the families who live there, an investment in the future.
They also set out to create viable and meaningful community oversight of the Sheriﬀ’s Oﬃce. Measure P is the next vital step in that community investment.
What is MEANINGFUL Civilian Oversight: https://www.nacole.org/community_oversight_paves_the_road_to_police_accountability
Link to the original Sonoma County Gazette editorial here.
It is extremely unfortunate that there were vulgarities and vicious attacks on public officials, such as Chair Gorin, during the recent hearing by the Board of Supervisors of the Evelyn Cheatham Ordinance. The sexualized and violent language against a woman was especially offensive.
While the campaign committee for the ECO had no role in the harmful comments made to the Board of Supervisors, the committee condemns such comments and regrets that the Board and the public had to experience them during hearing.
Thank you to the Board for placing the ECO on the ballot. We hope to continue this work over the next few months in a spirit of cooperation and trust. We ask our public officials to join with us in a spirit of collaboration to educate voters on the need for this essential ballot measure.
On Thursday 8/6 the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to place the Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance on the August 2020 ballot. The ECO Committee is proud to have witnessed and been a part of the broad community support that turned out in support of putting the ECO on the ballot. This bill would provide IOLERO with 1% of the Sheriff's budget and strengthen its oversight powers to help hold the sheriff's office accountable for future violations of our rights.
Several amendments were added to the ECO at the request of the current IOLERO director Karlene Navarro, the IOLERO CAC, and community groups that appeared at the 8/3 IOLERO CAC meeting. These amendments include:
Response to Supervisors' proposed process to amend IOLERO
Why we remain insistent that our county supervisors place the Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance on the November ballot.
Please sign our new Change.org petition to get the Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance on the ballot.
Several thousand voters signed our original campaign petition to strengthen police oversight in Sonoma County before efforts were halted by the pandemic and the county's shelter-in-place requirements. Rather than lose this singular form of democracy, we ask the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to place The Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance on the ballot for November 2020. County supervisors can preserve direct democracy and allow “we the people” to vote on this initiative.
Please sign this change.org petition, even if you already signed the ballot measure petition. We need as many signatures as possible to convince the supervisors to put our measure on the ballot.
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.
Help support our signature gathering, campaign administration, promotion, and work by making a generous contribution!
Endorse our Campaign as an Individual and/or on behalf of your Business or Organization!
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.