Marin County Supes Unanimously Approve Creation of Sheriff’s Office Watchdogs


(BCN) – After previously rejecting the idea twice, the Marin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday gave a unanimous green light to the formation of entities to provide independent oversight of the sheriff’s office. of the county after a civil grand jury report recommended it in June.

The county’s civil grand jury submitted a report titled “Sheriff Oversight: The Time is Now,” which called for the creation of an independent body primarily to address issues between the sheriff’s office and the residents of Marin City.

“The title of the report is apt,” supervisor Damon Connolly said during the meeting. “It is now.” Connolly said it was time to foster “trust, fairness, accountability and the strength of partnership in the community” between law enforcement and residents.

The report and its recommendations were compiled in the wake of Assembly Bill 1185, which passed in the fall of 2020 and allows counties to create citizen oversight boards. The civil grand jury pointed out that the job previously fell to the Marin County Board of Supervisors – although in some counties the sheriff does not answer to anyone. Sheriffs are elected but do not report to any county official.

The council not only supports a citizen oversight board of the sheriff’s office, but also the appointment of an inspector general to do so, the idea being that two independent oversight bodies are better than one. AB 1185 was passed after a shooting in Sacramento in 2017. Inspector General Rick Braziel, former Sacramento police chief, strongly criticized the shooting, in which an unarmed black man with medical conditions mental was shot six times in the back and was killed. he shunned the deputies.

After Braziel’s report became public, the Sacramento County Sheriff denied him access to any records or files in the department. If a second civilian oversight board with subpoena powers had been available, the sheriff would have had less power to block investigations into his department.

In a staff report presented to the Board of Supervisors, the county agreed with five findings of the civil grand jury and disagreed with four, in whole or in part. Overall, the county encourages supervisors to create an oversight board with subpoena powers in the next fiscal year. On Tuesday, it was decided that a more detailed plan would be presented to council by December.

The relationship between the sheriff’s office and black residents of Marin City has not been good, according to the civil grand jury report. Residents call their town a “training ground” for new MPs and say they are over-policed ​​as a result. Stops, arrests, citations and excessive warnings are commonplace, black residents told the jury.

About 35% of Marin City residents are black or multiracial, according to 2019 figures cited in the report. Marin City is also unincorporated, which means the county sheriff is responsible for law enforcement there.

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Two cases are described in the report which have particularly strained the relationship. One occurred in November 2019 when an early morning raid took place in Marin City, with armored vehicles and “dozens” of heavily armed officers in tactical gear.

The sheriff’s office was looking for suspects in a shooting in Orinda on Halloween, but school officials in Sausalito and Mill Valley told the jury the children arrived at the school “traumatized” by the raid. Counselors had to be employed to help the students.

The sheriff’s office said the action was primarily taken by the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, but the jury found the Marin County Sheriff could have done much more to mitigate the impact.

A second case occurred when a “Trump Caravan” arrived in Marin City on November 1, 2020. A convoy of vehicles from Santa Rosa drove through North Bay, arriving at the Gateway Mall in Marin City.

Residents reported being given racial epithets and being given eggs. The civil grand jury found that some voters felt intimidated to use a nearby ballot drop box. Additionally, the county’s registrar of voters reported that he received calls about possible voter intimidation, which he forwarded to the California Sheriff and Secretary of State.

Public comments at Tuesday’s meeting were mostly supportive of the creation of a citizens’ commission and the hiring of an inspector general, with resident Mary Morgan calling the report “thoughtful and thorough.”

Resident Clayton Smith disagreed, finding the civilian grand jury report “biased” against the sheriff’s office and he feared it would promote harassment against law enforcement. Smith wondered who would make up the citizens’ council, asking if they would be “axe-grinding people usually drawn to this sort of thing.”

He also praised the deputies’ handling of the search for the Orinda suspects and the Trump caravan. He accused the jury of “dealing with the county’s antipathy toward anything Trump-related.”

Spearheading the decision to hire an inspector general and create the board of oversight will be Marin County Equity Director Jamillah Jordan, who will begin with a “robust” community outreach program with help of the County Human Rights Commission. Her goal is to report the findings to the council in early December, she said.

Copyright © 2022 Bay City News, Inc.

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