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Supervisors extend deadline for Andy Lopez task force to draft proposals


The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to extend the deadline for a task force created in the wake of the Andy Lopez shooting to deliver its recommendations.

The task force, which was formed in December and instructed to complete its work by the end of 2014, was given three additional months Tuesday to draft its proposals in four key areas.

The 21-member panel is analyzing models for an independent civilian review of law enforcement shootings; examining options for community policing programs; studying whether to separate the Sheriff's Office and Coroner's Office into two agencies; and exploring ways to repair trust in law enforcement among residents, especially those in the Latino and minority communities.

Supervisors created the panel to address four issues they deemed essential to community healing following the death of Lopez, a 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy who was fatally shot last October by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy.

The Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force, now about a third of the way into the year, updated supervisors Tuesday on its progress. Some members said they would welcome more time to complete their work.

Judy Rice, who chairs one of panel's three subcommittees, pointed out the task force was actually given less than a year to make its draft recommendations, because county staff needs three to four months to take the proposals to county groups for input before finalizing them.

"That, in effect, cuts our working year to eight months," she said. "It's not enough."

Rice suggested giving the task force until the end of the calendar year to complete its recommendations, then providing additional time in 2015 to finalize them.

"It will make all the difference in the world in the depth of what we're able to accomplish," she said.

Task Force Chair Caroline Ba?elos said she felt the task force could accomplish all its goals within the year, given what the group had achieved so far.

"But that's not to say that if you offered us more time, we wouldn't welcome it," she said.

Task force leaders said much of their time has been consumed by getting 21 members from various backgrounds on the same page, learning how to operate as a group, and educating themselves about the complex issues before them.

Supervisor Efren Carrillo said he had been skeptical that a year was enough time for the task force to accomplish all the work it was assigned.

"I think the progress that has been made thus far, far exceeds any of my original thoughts about what the task force would have come up with," he said. "I'm very impressed with the work that's been done."

He said he supported giving the group extra time, "to really do whatever is necessary."

David Rabbitt, chair of the board, agreed. "It's the work product that is the most important and we want to make sure we get it right. Looking back 10 years, 90 (extra) days is inconsequential and time very well spent."

The board agreed to extend the deadline for the task force to March 31, 2015.

However, supervisors asked the task force to provide them with specific budget recommendations outlining which projects the group thinks are most important and how much they cost. Supervisors will consider those recommendations when drafting next year's budget.

The task force recently began meeting just once a month, down from two meetings a month. The shift is designed to create more time for subcommittee meetings, where members research and begin to draft their recommendations.

One subcommittee, focused on community engagement and healing, has kicked off a number of outreach efforts, including holding the first of six meetings between community members and local law enforcement.

The subcommittee tasked with making recommendations on community policing strategies has received presentations from the Sheriff's Office and Petaluma and Santa Rosa police departments. It has also sent surveys to 12 local law enforcement agencies to learn more about existing community policing measures. This week, it is sending a survey to local nonprofits to see how they communicate with law enforcement agencies.

The law enforcement accountability subcommittee has been reviewing models of police accountability around the state and country, among other things. It is tentatively supporting the creation of a group or entity that would hold law enforcement accountable across the county.

"We know we have a lot of work to do," Ba?elos said, "But I'm very confident, seeing all the work we've done thus far, that we're going to get it done."