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No “I” In Dependent 

Sonoma County police accountability activists are up in arms this week over possible changes to the county’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach, the office established in the wake of 2013’s office-involved-shooting of Andy Lopez by Sonoma County Sherif Officer Erick Gelhaus.

The IOLERO’s new director, Karlene Navarro, will reportedly propose that the Community Advisory Council, a part of the IOLERO whose members are currently appointed by the IOLERO director, will now be appointed by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

With that news, one activist wrote to the Bohemian to lament the death of the “I” in IOLERO. Navarro replaced San Francisco attorney Jerry Threet in March, with the backing of Sheriff Mark Essick and the board of supervisors. As the Bohemian reported at the time, Navarro’s husband was a prosecutor in Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch’s office while Ravitch was exonerating the officer, Gelhaus, whose actions helped give rise to the IOLERO.

According to sources familiar with the IOLERO, Navarro recently told the CAC that on Sept. 10 she’d be recommending shifting appointments to CAC from her office to the supervisors.’ According to CAC members who recounted the meeting, the change would be immediate and would spell the end of the current CAC board—along with their labor.

The CAC as currently comprised has been working for months on proposed “use of force” recommendations for the sheriff’s office. That work is now in jeopardy, says CAC member Jim Duffy in an email he sent to other CAC members and that was forwarded to the Bohemian.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the county is working to cut IOLERO off at the knees. Late last year, the SCSO pushed the supervisors to end the IOLERO outright as it accused Threet of indulging his anti-police “bias” as its first director. Threet’s now in private practice.

In response to IOLERO’s annual report last year, the sheriff’s office called for the county get rid of Threet and hire an outside contractor to investigate cases of alleged police bias on a case-by-case basis. For their part, Sonoma County supervisor David Rabbitt and Shirlee Zane have both echoed concerns about IOLERO raised by the SCSO in public remarks—even as the county has paid out millions of dollars in excessive-force lawsuits in recent years. The supervisors unanimously welcomed Navarro into her new post. Now it looks like they might be deciding who gets to be on the CAC, too. So: Where did that “I” go?

Tom Gogola is news editor the ‘Bohemian.’ We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

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