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Panel to discuss Sonoma County Sheriff’s immigration protocols

JULIE JOHNSON,

The Sonoma County Jail routinely complies with federal requests to be notified when an inmate slated for deportation is scheduled to be released.

The notification program and other ways the Sheriff’s Office cooperates in civil immigration matters will be discussed Monday at a public meeting by a new community panel formed to advise the county’s law enforcement auditor.

The 11-member group advises Jerry Threet, director of Sonoma County’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach. Threet’s office is charged with analyzing sheriff policies and procedures and recommending changes. Threet’s year-old office also handles citizen complaints and audits internal sheriff’s investigations into excessive force incidents and complaints to ensure they are fair and thorough.

Sonoma County Assistant Sheriff Randall Walker, who runs the jail, said it responds to ICE notification requests out of a professional duty to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies and share information in the spirit of keeping communities safe. An inmate’s release date is public information.

The jail is a key avenue of contact between immigrants and federal immigration agents, from the moment inmates are booked and their fingerprints are uploaded into a U.S. Department of Homeland Security database used by law enforcement across the country.

Council chair Alicia Roman, a Santa Rosa attorney, said the panel chose immigration as its first area of inquiry in response to widespread fear in Sonoma County’s immigrant communities that President Donald Trump will move on his promises to dramatically increase deportations.

Threet can recommend policy changes to Sheriff Steve Freitas, but the sheriff is an elected position with full autonomy in shaping policy for the department. The Sonoma County Supervisors allocate the budget but have no authority over how the department is run.

The Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach’s Community Advisory Council meets 5:30 p.m. Monday in the county’s permit hearing room, 2550 Ventura Ave.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.