In 2016, Sonoma County made a great effort to achieve workable oversight in the aftermath of the Andy Lopez shooting. Recently, David Ward, a sick, disabled man neglected to inform the Sheriff that he had found his stolen car. Thinking Ward could have been an armed car thief, a Deputy Sheriff tasered, choked, and killed Mr. Ward when he was unable to cooperate by unlocking his car door. This latest tragedy reinforces the need for civilian oversight, and for transparency and accountability from the Sheriff's Office.
The new ordinance is based on identified shortcomings in current IOLERO authority, resources, and effectiveness, based on its first three years of operations. When the ordinance takes effect, the Sheriff will be mandated to allow IOLERO staff unfettered access to dispatch records, personnel files, and all investigative reports and evidence. IOLERO will be independent, not subject to Sheriff's Office discretion, and will have its own subpoena power, allowing for independent audits and investigations. IOLERO will then comply with core principles established for effective oversight of law enforcement by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE).
The budget for the new IOLERO will be benchmarked to be at least 1% of the Sheriff's budget. Given the Sheriff’s current budget, IOLERO’s budget under the new ordinance would be about $1.8M. This would support a staff of 6 to 8 people, including an executive director who has been certified in the practice of civilian oversight by NACOLE. This provision will in no way reduce the Sheriff's budget,
Like many law enforcement leaders, the Sheriff is resistant to increased civilian oversight of his agency. Nevertheless, such oversight is in the best interest of both the public and of Sheriff's deputies. The Sheriff's Office has accepted some of the recommendations of the current IOLERO, but has rejected many others, including a ban on the chokehold that recently killed David Ward. Strengthening IOLERO will increase the public transparency of Sheriff's Office operations, which helps increase the trust of vulnerable communities in law enforcement. Effective civilian oversight of law enforcement helps improve both policing and corrections, thereby protecting individual rights and reducing litigation risks for the County.