Andy Lopez, David Ward, David Pelaez Chavez, have we forgotten their names? Have we forgotten Measure P, passed by Sonoma County voters with 64.7% of the vote in 2020? Forgotten the letters of agreement created by law enforcement unions and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors (BOS) in 2022, to take away the power of the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) to conduct an independent review at the same time as law enforcement?
I will not forget. I have spoken at BOS meetings, requesting these letters of agreement be renegotiated, so that the intent of Measure P, as voted on by citizens, can be implemented fully. The BOS wasn’t interested. In fact, one supervisor thought it was a personal attack, stating he didn’t have to listen to this. At the next meeting the same supervisor was much more respectful of speakers on the subject, because one was a member of the County’s own Community Advisory Council on IOLERO. But, still no action, renegotiating this agreement is still not on the BOS agenda.
Law enforcement is still investigating itself when someone is killed at their hands. David Pelaez Chavez was killed July 29, 2022. In January 2023, Sonoma County prosecutors are seeking to complete their review of the investigation and whether to file charges within 90 days. Per the assistant DA, that is just a general guideline, and could take longer if investigators need to request additional information.
This 90-day window would mean more than eight months will have passed before the public knows whether authorities believe Deputy Michael Dietrick violated any laws when he fatally shot Pelaez-Chavez three times.
Only when this investigation is complete will IOLERO be able to begin their investigation. I spoke at length with Sonoma County’s new IOLERO director, John Alden. He explained that there are two types of investigations, administrative and criminal. Administrative investigation is done by law enforcement and IOLERO, criminal by the DA.
Alden explained, “Under the current Letters of Agreement, IOLERO can’t start its investigation until after the criminal investigation is done and the Sheriff’s administrative personnel investigation is also done. We would rather IOLERO started at the same time as the Sheriff’s administrative personnel investigation. Concurrent investigations would ensure that the Sheriff and IOLERO are both doing their best, most timely work.”
He said IOLERO wants to be sure its work does not compromise any criminal prosecution that the District Attorney might bring.
“Right now, we have a set of Letters of Agreement between the Sheriff’s Office unions and the County that dictate how Measure P is implemented. These can and will change over time. Public feedback about how they could be better is very important, and we welcome that feedback over time. The Board of Supervisors and IOLERO have heard loud and clear that the Letters of Agreement could be better. We’re working on that now; but it does take time.”
But, how long before another community member is killed at the hands of law enforcement? Is it not time to tell our county supervisors that we want Measure P implemented as we voted for it? The BOS must get back to the bargaining table with law enforcement, now.