Who's Watching the Sheriff?
Updated: Apr 1
Latest update on the County's Community Review Commission
(Thanks to Michelle Wright and others who reported on this item)
We're talking about Agenda Item #26 aka Revised Draft Framework for Creation of a Community Review Commission (CRC) discussed at the 3/23 Board of Supervisors Meeting
What Had Happened Was...
This agenda item was a follow-up to the introduction of this subject at the February 9, 2021 BOS meeting which we reported on.
Supervisors were engaged, asked intelligent questions and clearly listened to public comments (progress yall!!). Although they did not agree on fine details, they were all generally supportive of creating the CRC in some form. Also, executive staff seemed objectively responsive to the BOS in stark contrast to the previous County Executive (HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAME). Supervisor Kennedy emphasized that nothing in the Community Review Commission (CRC) would trump collective bargaining agreements. (It should be noted that the Deputy Sheriff's Association labor agreement is up for negotiation as the current one expires in 2022.)
In this meeting, Supervisor Desmond recalled that he had in fact talked to Assembly member Kevin McCarty who authored AB 1185 (the legislation that authorizes the County to create a board that oversees the Sheriff’s department,) as the law was being developed. He further stated that his constituents are happy with the Sheriff.
Of course Supervisor Sue Frost remained against Subpoena power being granted to the CRC.
1) Added that the CRC would be established pursuant to Section 25303.7 of the California Government Code (AB 1185) which states that "A county may create a sheriff oversight board either by action of the board of supervisors or through a vote of county residents, comprised of civilians to assist the board of supervisors with its duties required pursuant to Section 25303 that related to the sheriff.
2) The chair of the CRC and the inspector general may issue a subpoena (meaning homie gotta show up in Court and answer some questions)
3) Members appointments may include representatives of victim rights organizations.
1) The majority of the BOS seemed to agree that the CRC should have independent subpoena powers.
2) Some public comments to be considered or added to the Draft Framework include: IT support services; CRC independent investigative powers; diverse community membership with experience in trauma/mental health, noncarceral crime reduction, homelessness, youth concerns, civil rights and civil liberties as criteria for appointments; review the sheriff's budget for transparency purposes; regular reporting to the BOS, CRC funding modeled after the Sonoma County's oversight commission.
3) The majority of the BOS seemed to agree with Supervisor Serna's proposal to establish a placeholder budget for the CRC, modeled after the Mental Health Board with the ability sufficiently staff and resource the CRC. County Executive direct report shall staff the CRC.
4) The initial direction to staff is to bring back an "actionable" resolution to establish the CRC. It was noted the Resolution approach is more expeditious and flexible. However, establishing the CRC by ordinance has more force and effect as well as longevity. It is possible to eventually adopt an ordinance.
Why is This Important for Social Justice? Wellllllll the current Sheriff has acted with indifference concerning transparency and accountability so there's that! Need we say more?
But ya, we gotta provide checks and balances that could save lives.
The adoption of an oversight board with subpoena power and ability to influence the sheriff's budget with policy recommendations to the BOS establishes accountability that the community has not had.
Such oversight, albeit as a review commission instead of an "oversight board" as authorized under AB 1185 is a step in the right direction. This oversight with the authority to investigate is needed as evidenced by the killing of unarmed people of color and people with behavioral disabilities.
That being said....
It is important that the CRC is eventually established by ordinance (allowing the CRC created by resolution to help shape the ordinance) and that the BOS use the only influence that it otherwise has over the Sheriff - the budget.
SJPC readers should contact their BOS representative or otherwise contact the BOS to make public comments in support of the establishment of a fully funded oversight board with the strongest force and effect. SJPC readers should follow this issue and get involved with grassroots organizations that are a part of the ACLU coalition supporting use of AB 1185. Also, the members/appointment process should be an open and transparent process allowing qualified and diverse community representation.