High on the list of Lessons of 2020 is that people (particularly “those people”) – are often beaten or Arrested to Death with impunity. So it’s understandable that voters’ ears perk up when our Sheriff tells us Measure P is a bad idea because . . .well . . . he doesn’t like it.
Measure P would greatly strengthen IOLERO, the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Oversight created by the County Supervisors in the outrage following the senseless killing of 13-year old Andy Lopez by a sheriff’s deputy, perhaps the most dramatic in a list of questionable deaths at the hands of law enforcement that have cost county taxpayers millions in lawsuit settlements.
Per the county’s website, “IOLERO’s primary functions include reviewing complaints against the Sheriff’s Office, community outreach, and making policy recommendations to the Sheriff’s Office.”
But IOLERO is currently understaffed, underfunded, and denied access to information needed to do its work. The 2020 Voters’ Guide notes that besides adding staff and increasing IOLERO’s budget, Measure P would “expand the oversight authority and independence of IOLERO to investigate Sheriff-related issues . . . and compel production of records and witnesses.”
Sounds reasonable. But given the Sheriff’s pouting opposition, readers can be excused for thinking Measure P authorizes no-knock colonoscopies on his entire staff.
He strenuously insists P would make his job harder. But foot-stomping seems to be his approach to public service. He reacted similarly when, before COVID-19 infected 7,000+ county residents (and counting) and killed 120 (as of press time), he announced he wouldn’t “enforce any f*#king orders” of the county’s health officer. County supervisors coaxed him off that ledge.
Now he rants in the Voters’ Guide that: “Measure P doesn’t improve civilian oversight; it just creates unnecessary red tape. It takes deputies off the streets, away from helping residents and from helping us in disasters. It forces fewer deputies to do more with less training and lower funding.”
How P would do any of that isn’t clear. The far greater threat to public safety– and to his deputies – is the dark pall of distrust and suspicion his opposition casts over even the Good Apples in his ranks, who deserve all the support and respect they can get. After all, 2020 has not exactly been kind to the reputation of law enforcement, which has spent much of the year brutally clubbing & tear-gassing protestors protesting (wait for it) police brutality.
In that environment, a sheriff who cared about his deputies would want the public to know everything they do – and put up with? – especially in situations that draw complaints and/or feature a corpse. Rigorous IOLERO investigations of every complaint – from thoughtless rudeness to homicide – could be extremely useful to a sheriff interested in building public trust by letting voters see exactly what his Apples deal with daily. Knowing that their job performance will be an open book can only sharpen their skills, sensitivity, and pride in doing their often-thankless work. And doing it without falsifying their incident reports.
Nonetheless, even with impeccable transparency and the best of reforms, officer-involved “incidents” will still happen. Over time, a strong IOLERO can help us distinguish the inevitable from the avoidable, and reduce the latter. But in the current State of our Union, Measure P could be all that stands between the Sheriff and a greater chaos that endangers us all.
For the Sheriff’s sake, and ours: Yes on P.