Ben Boyce


Re-design the police

Posted on August 20, 2020 by Ben Boyce

Let’s give props where they are due. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors (BOS) seems to have accurately read the will of their constituents, who have been deeply impacted by the public action and education around the Black Lives Matter movement. The Board made a unanimous and courageous decision to place the Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance on the November ballot. Our District 1 Supervisor, Susan Gorin, came through again. She continues to learn and grow in the office. 

The Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach, or IOLERO, is a civilian committee, staffed by a county-appointed director, that was created by the BOS to investigate the use of force by sheriff’s deputies and complaints against Sheriff’s Office personnel, and the official conduit for community outreach and input on the quality of law enforcement in their communities. 

Steadfast opposition from the Sheriff from Day One has stymied the work of IOLERO. The agency must be given the power to refer cases to a court for adjudication. Without that power, it is just a talk shop for community activists. The Ordinance will give IOLERO some teeth. 

The County Sheriff ‘s Office and the police association for the deputies are already throwing up the usual lawfare PR flak about “legal flaws” in the Evelyn Cheatham Ordinance. My observation about conservatives is that they generally are quite certain anything they don’t like must clearly be illegal. The self-styled “constitutional conservatives” consistently operate in bad faith to fashion the law to match their prejudices. Pay no mind to the Right’s desperate clamor to obfuscate the issue. We do have the power to make the cops accountable.

This extreme and divisive gambit places Sheriff Essick in direct opposition to the many citizens and public officials in Sonoma County who see a new vision for the social function of the police. So be it. That’s a good fight to have. 

We can win this battle to compel the Sheriff’s Office to accept public oversight of law enforcement and to be accountable to the Board and citizens by voting for the Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance in the November election.

Beleaguered County Sheriff Mark Essick, who lost his cool and his professional bearing by clashing publicly with the County Health Officer (CHO) and the Board of Supervisors over quarantine measures back in May, was slapped down by the Board when he requested funding for an outside counsel to block the Ordinance with a lawsuit. No thanks.

His reputation is in free-fall after inexplicably clashing with the head of the CHO by unexpectedly holding a press conference to declare that the deputies under his command would no longer enforce County Health Office emergency measures. 

This controversy disrupted the CHO’s orderly, data-driven unwinding of the original quarantine order, undermined public confidence in local government, and diminished public compliance, leading to a second Covid spike. County Health Officer Dr. Sundari R. Mase, a global pandemic expert, was hired just in time to deal with the pandemic in March 2020. The official disarray dismayed her and the Board. We can do better.

Vote for the Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance on the November ballot. It is our right as citizens in a democracy to have law enforcement that meets community standards. We can win this victory.

This is an opinion. Views expressed are those of the author.



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