The Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach, or IOLERO, was established as one of Sonoma County’s responses to the tragic killing of Andy Lopez in 2013. One of its main purposes is to provide opportunities for public input into Sheriff’s Office policies, practices and training.
As the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing concluded in its final report: “In order to achieve external legitimacy, law enforcement agencies should involve the community in the process of developing and evaluating policies and procedures.” IOLERO established its Community Advisory Council to provide a bridge between the Sheriff’s Office and the community, and to make recommendations to the IOLERO director on possible policy changes for the Sheriff’s Office.
For the last 11/2years, the council has fulfilled that auxiliary function admirably, including recommending last year limits on cooperation by the Sheriff’s Office’s with immigration enforcement — recommendations that were largely adopted by the sheriff.
The Community Advisory Council is now reviewing use of force, the policies of greatest significance to the community and employees of the Sheriff’s Office. Beginning this month, and for multiple months ahead, the council will review policies on how, when and why sheriff’s employees are allowed to use force, including deadly force, against members of the public.
The criteria guiding uses of force affect the perceived and real safety of both the public and Sheriff’s Office employees. They can be a matter of life and death for those involved in such encounters.
Beyond the actual uses of force, these policies and practices also can significantly impact how officers interact with community members, how community members feel about those interactions and how employees and their families feel about their jobs. It is this area of policy and practice that was, and is, at issue in the Andy Lopez shooting and its aftermath, including a lawsuit still working its way through the courts.
Among the many questions that may be considered in this policy review are: Should officers first try to calm a conflict before escalating to a use of physical force? Should a use of deadly force be considered a last resort after other options are reasonably considered? Should those reviewing the reasonableness of an officer’s use of force defer to the views of the individual officer at the time of the incident? Should force used be proportional to resistance offered by a suspect? What should be the relative balance between the risks to an officer and to a suspect in an encounter?
These are challenging and complex policy questions without easy answers, and they affect everyone. Democracy depends on those affected by policies participating in their formulation.
The success of this process depends on you, the public. In order for the IOLERO Community Advisory Council to fully understand the views of the public in this important area, we need you to make your voices heard.
We invite you to attend our public meetings, held on the first Monday of each month, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department hearing room, located on the county government campus at 2550 Ventura Ave. in Santa Rosa.
If you are unable to attend these meetings and would like to weigh in remotely, we invite you to visit our use of force policy webpage and send us your input at sonomacounty.ca.gov/Community-Advisory-Council/Policy-Reviews.
What: IOLERO Community Advisory Council seeks public input on sheriff’s use-of-force policy
When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday and the first Monday of each month
Where: Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department, 2550 Ventura Ave.