PD Editorial: After the Santa Rosa protests: What's next?

  • Young protestors march towards through the streets towards the County of Sonoma Office of the District Attorney to protest the death of Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa on Tuesday, November 5, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

The protests continue, but the level of community participation is clearly dropping. None of the recent demonstrations prompted by the shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez have approached the size of the massive march on Oct. 29 involving some 1,200 people parading from Courthouse Square to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office.

Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors has held its first public discussion of the shooting, hearing from more than two dozen speakers during an emotion-packed three-hour meeting Tuesday. The supervisors also took time to share their individual sorrow and thoughts about the death of an eighth-grader at the hands of a deputy who reportedly mistook a toy rifle for a real AK-47.

Supervisor David Rabbitt, the board chairman, spoke for many when he asked, "What kind of a community do we want to live in, and how do we make sure that this doesn't happen again?"

Likewise, the majority of Santa Rosa City Council members finally emerged from a city attorney-imposed silence to utter some appropriate reflections on a tragedy that has torn apart a southwest area neighborhood that includes both incorporated and unincorporated areas.

The question now is this: What's next?

No one should expect quick resolutions to the three official investigations underway, including an internal one by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, a second by the FBI and the official inquiry being conducted by the Santa Rosa Police Department in conjunction with Petaluma police.

Nor should the public expect a quick resolution to the federal civil rights lawsuit filed Monday by the parents of Andy Lopez, who accuse the deputy, Erick Gelhaus, of acting recklessly when he shot Lopez seven times. They also accuse the Sheriff's Office of encouraging the use of excessive force by deputies.

No, nothing is likely to happen quickly in terms of shedding more light on what happened on Moorland Avenue at 3:14 p.m. on Oct. 22 or in terms of assigning blame and consequences.

However, there remains plenty of room for discussion on ways to ensure greater transparency, safety and accountability in cases of officer-involved shootings and, especially, to ensure something similar to this never happens again. Here are three key areas that we believe bear immediate discussion:

; The value of requiring cameras to be mounted on the dashboards of patrol cars and, possibly, on the uniforms of officers.

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