Vote to Balance the Power

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors made the courageous, unanimous (5-0) decision recently to place the Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance on the November ballot as Measure P.

The massive national action and social education initiated by the Black Lives Matter movement raised public awareness. Appreciation to the Board for stepping in to ensure that the democratic will of the citizens will be heard in the fall election.

The Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) is a civilian county committee (staffed by an appointed director) created by the Board in 2016 to investigate the use of force by Sheriff’s deputies and complaints against Sheriff’s Office personnel. Measure P would give the IOLERO access to evidence, the power to interview witnesses and the legal authority to subpoena records.

Steadfast opposition from Sheriff Mark Essick and the police officer’s association from Day One have stymied the work of IOLERO. The agency must be given the power to refer cases to a court for adjudication. Without that power, it’s just a talk shop for community activists.

Measure P will give IOLERO some teeth. We can place the Sheriff’s Office under civilian oversight and restore the balance of power that has been drained from the Board of Supervisors, who nominally has oversight of the Sheriff.

The County Sheriff’s Office and the police association for the deputies are already throwing up the usual lawfare PR flak about “legal flaws” in the Evelyn Cheatham Ordinance. This is a standard “stall and divide” tactic. Right-wingers have a bad intellectual habit of assuming that if they don’t approve of something, it must be illegal. This time, they failed.

The people of Sonoma County, confirmed by their elected officials, can use the power of the ballot to legally compel the Sheriff’s Office to accept public oversight of county law enforcement and to be accountable to the Board and citizens. You, dear citizen, make that happen by voting for Measure P in the November election.

It is our right as citizens in a democracy to have law enforcement that meets community standards. 

Ben Boyce lives in Sonoma.
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