Ben Boyce


Re-design the police: step one

Posted on September 17, 2020 by Ben Boyce

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors made the courageous, unanimous (5-0) decision recently to place the Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance on the November ballot. This bold action was spurred by public demand for civic accountability of law enforcement, as expressed by the many street demonstrations and a widespread public re-assessment and recalibration of social and racial assumptions and practices.

The massive national action and social education initiated by the Black Lives Matter movement raised public awareness. Appreciation to the Board for stepping in to ensure that the democratic will of the citizens will be heard in the fall election.

IOLERO is a civilian county committee (staffed by a Board appointed director) created by the Board in 2015 to investigate the use of force by Sheriff’s deputies and complaints against Sheriff’s Office personnel.

Steadfast opposition from Sheriff Mark Essick and the police officers association from Day One have stymied the work of IOLERO. The agency must be given the power to refer cases to a court for adjudication. Without that power, it’s just a talk shop for community activists.

The Evelyn Cheatham Ordinance is named after a recently deceased former IOLERO chief commission member, outstanding youth mentor ,and local black business entrepreneur, Evelyn Cheatham. It will give IOLERO some teeth. We have hope.

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. This is a standard “stall and divide” tactic. Right-wingers have a bad intellectual habit of assuming that if they don’t approve of something, it must be illegal. This time, they failed.

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

The Board was quite vexed with Sheriff Essick, after they paid the price for uniting to present a common front last year to back up the Sheriff’s ultimately ill-advised mass evacuation of the metro center of the County. It’s no wonder that Sheriff Essick’s request for $50,000 in funding for an outside counsel to block the Ordinance with a lawsuit was slapped down by the Board. No.

The citizens of Sonoma County, confirmed by their elected officials, can and, I believe, will use the power of the ballot to legally compel the Sheriff’s Office to accept public oversight of county law enforcement and to be accountable to the Board and citizens. You, dear citizen, make that happen by voting for the Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance in the November election.

Vote early by mail and take the heat off the nice office ladies at the county who have to stay up late on Election Night to tabulate votes. Bank your vote. We count early votes as received in this county. Having voted, then talk smack about it on your social media platform poison of choice nonstop until Election Day.

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. 

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

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