A start towards change — Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair, Susan Gorin, announced new county initiatives such as the hiring of a county equity officer to examine forms of discrimination, at a joint press conference with mayors and police chiefs from around the county on June 10.

County’s nine mayors sign pledge to review police policies with community input

Sonoma County’s mayors and police chiefs held a joint press conference Wednesday afternoon with Congressman Mike Thompson and Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Susan Gorin announcing the region’s commitment to community review of law enforcement policies, and new county initiatives such as the hiring of a county equity officer to examine forms of discrimination.

“The voices that we’ve heard in the past couple of weeks have shaken me to the core because the conversation that we’ve had for a century or more — fighting for an end to discrimination, a fight for social justice and equity — continues,” Gorin said during the briefing.    

Gorin said she is here to lend her voice and her solace to the fight, to the marches and to the people who have taken to the streets peacefully to raise their voices.

“Today I pledge to you that the board of supervisors is recognizing how we need to work together with all of you,” Gorin said. “Today we had our budget conversation and we agreed to support a new position for the county, an equity officer, an office of equity that would examine all forms of discrimination by this county and the community and work to seek regress and a change of how we perceive what we are doing and all kinds of disparities in Sonoma County.”   

Gorin also announced plans for the creation of a county ad hoc committee to explore “the strengthening,” of the Evelyn Cheatham Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) ordinance, which if approved by county supervisors, would help the IOLERO improve its civilian oversight to better assist the county sheriff’s office in improving its operations. 

Gorin noted that the Evelyn Cheatham IOLERO ordinance has been proposed, but that they need to figure out how to move forward in collaboration with the IOLERO executive director and the county sheriff, Mark Essick. IOLERO was established by the board of supervisors in 2015 following the shooting death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez in 2013 by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy in Santa Rosa.

“Now is the time to work together to change what we are doing, how we are working as a community, and create a much better and just community and county for all of us,” Gorin said.

 Congressman Thompson discussed the congressional actions that are in the works and said that the events of the last two weeks are a heavy reminder that we need to do a better job. He noted that peaceful protests must be allowed to continue.

“The last two weeks have shaken us all to core and for many of us it is a heavy reminder that the violence and the discrimination that black Americans and people of color face every single day and for the rest of us, it is a real wake up call. It is a stark reminder that we need to do a much better job,” he said.

With that said, Thompson said the areas of reform that Congress is looking at include :

  • “To hold police accountable through our court system.”
  • “To better collect data that will provide transparency about misconduct to ensure that if there is an officer that’s relieved from duty one place because of misconduct, they’re not going to sneak in the back door somewhere else.”
  • “To improve training that will address bias and aggressive tactics.”
  • “To criminalize lynching at the federal level.”  

“Think about that,” Thompson said. “It’s 2020 and we still haven’t done that. It’s shameful.”

At the city level, Windsor mayor and head of the Mayor and Councilmembers’ Association of Sonoma County, Dominic Foppoli, outlined what the county’s nine mayors have been working on in response to the George Floyd homicide and countless others that have occurred at the hands of white police officers.

He said all of the mayors have been meeting weekly to discuss and address recent events.

“We are in absolute solidarity with our community,” Foppoli said, adding that they are there to show support for a movement that he can’t believe “we are still dealing with in this modern-day society.”

According to Foppoli, all nine mayors of Sonoma County have signed a pledge to review police use of force policy and to seek community input.

“We pledge that we will review our police use of force policies. We are going to engage our communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences and stories in the review. We’ll report the findings of our review to the community and will seek feedback. Finally, when necessary, we are all committed to reforming law enforcement policy,” Foppoli said.

He concluded with a message to all residents.

“We are listening to you. We support you and we want to hear from you,” Foppoli said. “I would ask that each and everyone one of you reach out to us, reach out to your mayors, reach out to your city councils, get engaged and work with us in making our society a better place.”


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