Self-governing Oversight for Sonoma County Law Enforcement

Editor:Ever since the death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, there has been uproar in the Santa Rosa community regarding oversight of police behavior. Deputy Gelhaus shot and killed eighth grader, Andy Lopez, after mistaking his toy BB gun for an AK-47 assault rifle on October 22nd. Over the past few months, there have been various protests, rallies and marches occurring in the Santa Rosa community, organized by the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez, which has continuously brought up the demand that our community must have formal civilian oversight for local law enforcement.

After a young boy’s life was cut short by a deputy of the Sonoma County Sherriff’s Department, there has been concern in restoring the public’s confidence in local law enforcement agencies. There is currently an existing task force, which has been appointed by district attorney, Julie Ravitch to consider civilian oversight. . However in order to restore the public’s trust with the Sonoma County law enforcement, the task force must be independent of Sonoma County supervisors. The task force needs consist of concerned civilians of Sonoma County who will independently investigate police behavior and review the use of deadly force.

It is important to assess the procedures used to recruit members of an independent civilian’s review board, and also to assess how members will be trained. The concerned citizens, who are interested in becoming a part of this task force, must do this by examining successful civilian review board models of communities outside the Sonoma County area.

The capabilities of the civilian’s review board must involve having authority to call witnesses, (including members of the law enforcement to testify about what happened) and produce independent reports that make recommendations to the board of supervisors and city council surrounding the county.

Our socio-political system has failed to provide justice for Andy Lopez and his grieving family. Community action is needed in order to avoid another tragedy like this occurring in Sonoma County again.

Tara Kostan is senior at Sonoma State University. She will be graduating with a BA in Sociology in May 2014, and will be initiated into the Alpha Kappa Delta International Honors Society.
Tara Kostan
Rohnert Park


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