I went to last evening’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) Community Advisory Council (CAC) meeting expecting to hear Lt. Naugle make the Sheriff’s Office response to the CAC’s detailed recommendations to the Sheriff regarding ICE cooperation from jail. This follows the recent release of the IOLERO staff report, which closely follows the already released CAC recommendations which can be found on the IOLERO website under the heading policy recommendations. I was excited and thought this would be a watershed moment of community engagement with the Sheriff’s Office, where the issues surrounding current immigration policy would be put on the table for all to see, and a productive discussion started, as is the mission of IOLERO.
Hopes for Sheriff’s engagement dashed
Unfortunately, a substantive discussion of the ICE cooperation issues at hand was clouded by a highly emotional response by the public concerning IOLERO Director Jerry Threet’s firing of Alicia Roman from the CAC. Also unfortunately, Sheriff’s representative Naugle did not provide the detailed, written response regarding immigration policy as requested by the IOLERO CAC. Lt. Naugle said the Sheriff will wait until SB-54 is settled, which in accord with lobbying by the state Sheriff’s Association, will be eight months from now. The Sheriff’s Office appears to be stonewalling, not willing to respond to IOLERO for eight months. This is less than transparent on local immigration policy, all the while Homeland Security is moving to reactivate ICE policies that have already been determined unconstitutional. However, this still does not justify the rude and disrespectful treatment given to Lt. Naugle.
Hyper-partisan behavior will sink the ship
Pragmatically speaking, the sum total of lack of good-faith Sheriff’s response to the CAC, and the circus atmosphere of contrived coughing, rowdy and disrespectful public comment and behavior, will ultimately be counter-productive, harden opposing positions, and serve to provide the CAC, the public, and the Sheriff with reason to not seriously engage. This is an unfortunate turn of events. There are process issues here that need to be worked out, and stonewalling on one side and throwing bombs on the other is not the way to get anywhere. Sheriff Freitas would not willingly come to be humiliated in a rowdy, disrespectful IOLERO public hearing, nobody would. This is lynch mob type atmosphere, that ironically is being purveyed by those against lynch mobs and unfair application of justice.
CAC to reach out to electeds if no Sheriff cooperation
However, the CAC did say, by apparent consensus, that if the Sheriff will not engage the IOLERO CAC at a detailed policy level, that the matter of Sheriff’s non-cooperation will have to be pressed to the Board of Supervisors, and to local city councils. And just to show that I am an equal opportunity noticer of irony, while the Sheriff want jails to cooperate with ICE, in the interest of public safety, ICE itself is fundamentally uncooperative concerning the due process rights of its detainees. Why cooperate with an agency that ends up manifesting the type of extra judicial powers characteristic of dictatorships and not democracies? Some things about this Trump immigration policy are just not right and in lieu of that, the public wants to know how, what, why and where the Sheriff stands. These are reasonable requests for information.
Alicia Roman firing
As far as CAC member’s status, apparently, the membership of the CAC is set at Director Jerry Threet’s discretion. These are the rules of the game that everyone knew up front. Threet has given a statement regarding the dismissal of Ms. Roman. Supporters of Alicia Roman also passed out a written statement giving their version of events, and the Sonoma Index Tribune recently published an article of the topic of Roman’s firing.
The merits of the firing are obviously open to question from multiple perspectives, and amount to a polarized controversy where actors involved seem to have decided up front what is right and wrong, and/or are constrained by county personnel policy from fully speaking out. In a situation such as this, it is reasonable to assume that each side has some points and things are not all black and white, not all one way or the other. This is typical for any he said, she said situation, and a firing is likely to bring out all sorts of hot emotion, sour grapes, self-righteousness, etc. That is how these things go in any context, and it is typical that the actors involved, management and employee, lovers, or friends, are not able to see the perspective of the other. Taking sides then amounts to buying into a partial version of what happened and why.
The Roman firing was one of the director’s ministerial right, and one which a CAC subcommittee will investigate, hopefully in a balanced and fair way, and report back to the public.
Mr. Coughing and Middlebury College dynamic
One of the first public comments made, by whom I will refer to as Mr. Coughing, stated that you are either on the right side of this firing issue or none at all. This general gestalt struck me as exactly analogous to the type of left-wing, zero-sum game intolerance displayed on various college campuses recently, including Middlebury College, Berkeley and others. This is the same type of ideological and religious purity, fundamentalism and intolerance of difference that all people can see as inherently dangerous. Eric Hoffer pointed this out quite cogently in his book The True Believer. It is clear the Left is just as capable of this as anyone.
It is ironic that those who advocate reasonableness and good faith by the Sheriff then display such bad faith and poor behavior themselves. This is similar to tactical differences played out in the Civil Rights Movement, between the strategies of MLK, Malcolm X, and SNCC, part of which is now brought up by Black Lives Matter. What is the best way to engage, to get the social and legal justice results called for? How to address the mass incarceration of minorities and people of color who live in urban environments? We have a president who is playing race cards and appealing to base nativism impulses, setting the country at war with itself, urban vs rural, race vs. race, trying to divide us, to enact a regressive agenda against just about everything valued by a strong majority of the California electorate.
Different world views are at stake
Part of the trouble with bridging any communication gaps between the community, IOLERO and the Sheriff’s Office, is one of world view and primary assumptions about how the world works. To regular members of civil society, the law enforcement community seems to exist in a parallel universe with views all its own, that differ from many of those in the West Coast public. Law enforcement agencies seem to be susceptible to framings of “law and order”, and calls for “public safety” that appear more repressive and draconian than most California liberals would like. Indeed, the gap between defense law, and the prosecution and police, reflects fundamentally different views of the purpose and goals of our legal system.
Hammers and nails
In my opinion as a liberal, it certainly appears that law enforcement is being played as a pawn in the overall national culture wars, with law enforcement agencies (LEAs) taking a conservative, strict father view. LEAs are maybe getting a carrot of federal money and technology. Thereby LEAs stake out certain philosophical territory and become being immune from suggestions like the current IOLERO recommendations, or to see that Trump’s immigration policies are analogous to past widely recognized as immoral violations of civil rights like the Chinese Exclusion Act or Japanese Internment. For all parties, here: to a hammer, the whole world looks like nails.
Representation and the will of the people
All this legal and justice flux touched on above is contained in the weasel word phrases of “law and order, and “public safety.” As William Blake said, “both read the Bible day and night, where thou readest black while I readest white.” These phrases do not mean the same things to the Sheriff’s Office and to the 70% of the public who voted against Trump in Sonoma County. With those metaphorical hammers and nails, different parties construct entirely different realities.
And so, waiting eight months for SB-54 to become law can be glossed as a benefit, or as a cost to public safety, it can be seen as a boon to law and order or a negative outcome put in place by conservative forces.
Qui respiciunt ad pauca de facili pronunciat. (They who take only few points into account find it easy to pronounce judgement.)
On the day of Alicia’s firing (3/14/17) I was the recipient of an e-mail thread where Susan LaMont, former Director of the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, primary author of the It Won’t Happen Here statement, and also of the Police Brutality Coalition of Sonoma County, and who is quoted in the above-noted I-T article, called for a protest at the IOLERO meeting. I wrote back that we needed to find out more before pronouncing judgement, and that was the end of me on that thread.
For or against?
So, while I am an advocate myself, and as indignantly against Trump and his policies as anyone, when I see a group of people display the type of Trump intolerance I feel inside, it strikes me differently. The self-righteousness does not look good when I see others wearing it. This is an opportunity for reflection on my own and other styles in the resistance. As a Quaker, I have always felt more comfortable to be for something, than against. In the public arena, it is hard to not be swept downstream by antagonisms and to forget the good things you’d like to see. The Women’s March and other early post-Trump events called for staying positive, keeping our joy, and not becoming bitter-hearted antagonists. Quakers also have been long-time proponents of prison reform because they know from actual experience, that good guys can end up in jail.
The angry voice may be emotionally satisfying, but it is ultimately counter-productive. I am animated by what I see as unjust policies coming in many, many areas. Immigration is just the start of what I intend to resist and speak out on. Sure, get emotional, but come back and state the case.
Andy Lopez shooting conflated with Alicia Roman firing
A few things struck me right off the bat when public comment started at the IOLERO meeting last night. One, the Andy Lopez shooting still inspires raw emotion and anger at the Sheriff’s Office, and the firing of Roman creates a new martyr to fill the same emotional space left raw by Lopez’s death. This I think this wrongly conflates two different things. It is known in emotional fighting, that when people get worked up, they throw any logs they can find on the fire.
The Roman firing was one of the director’s ministerial right, and one which a CAC subcommittee will investigate, hopefully in a balanced and fair way, and report back to the public. This is not the Andy Lopez shooting.
Yes, there is a major national problem with law enforcement profiling and targeting people of color. Andy Lopez fits here along with Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland. This is a nationally known, and legitimate law enforcement policy issue for which Sonoma County has its own case. The US has a higher incarcerated population by percent than any developed country, and of those, blacks and people of color are a way over-represented population. This can be reasonably seen as the result of racial profiling, of which any local law enforcement agency would be somewhat of a fractal if there were no explicit polices and trainings in place for mitigation. Apparently AG Sessions is now seeking to undo previous Justice Dept. initiatives to improve policing in this regard. But this is all outside and tangential to the Roman firing.
Eric Hoffer nailed it
Two, Mr. Coughing and others were characters straight out of Eric Hoffer’s true believers. To paraphrase Hoffer, the truth of text is not in its meaning but its certitude. The central issues of this public dynamic can be followed at Middlebury College. At IOLERO there was an intimidating crowd mentality going on that would brook no opposition. This style will never get anywhere except inside their own bubble.
A question of style and tactics
And so, what are the best and most effective tactics to achieve the desired results? Like current immigration policy, racial law enforcement policy, and out-of-balance incarceration of urban minorities, these can be made better by productive dialogue and barrier breaking efforts with the Sheriff’s Office. This dance, this process, requires a certain amount of good will to be maintained. If reasoned, persuasive arguments are to be heard, they must be delivered in such a fashion as to be received. To do this, worlds and primary assumptions have to be bridged. A method has to be followed.
Or else advocate anarchy and revolution, after which the fabric of society will be busted down to chaos.
Call for Alicia to reconcile
My advice to Alicia Roman, take a larger view, lay down your personal beefs, call off the attack dogs, and step back into the policy fray as a member of the public, to do this IOLERO dance with the Sheriff’s Office in a way that uses your talents for the good, rather than for torpedoing the process. There is plenty of precedent for people to reframe, get their heads out of the small-time emotional mud, and focus on the big picture issues at stake. Your effort to be bigger here would show you have the community’s interest first. And while it may be emotionally satisfying to fight and have your surrogates throw bombs, your movement back to cooperation, and reconciliation with Jerry Threet, will salvage this process and gain you tons of respect. Moves like this are widely respected. Don’t play to division. You can get the train back on the track, and not allow the Resistance to legitimately destructive policies, to become divided by purity, true believer-type arguments that hurt, more than help the cause.
The CAC obviously wants to do good work, and to move forward with the community-bridging intent of IOLERO, and you can help that by being bigger than what happened to you.
In fact, you may better serve as a flat-out advocate, then as an insider who has to adhere to a veneer of unbiased impartiality. Certainly, the rest of the CAC is sympathetic, and animated by the same things all of us here are, a push for how we believe justice will be best served. These are the motivations at the core of the genesis of IOLERO in the first place. It’s just that a certain kind of dance has to be done by various actors in the game. Come back to the public, and lay this side fight down. We can’t afford to get divided, and end up like dogs barking at an intruder, but who end up attacking each other instead.