Showing posts with label #InternalInvestigations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #InternalInvestigations. Show all posts

Sunday, May 7, 2023

IOLERO Audit Uncovers Incomplete Investigations in Sonoma County Sheriff's Office.

"21st Century Policing Task Force Report."
Pete Souza, March 2, 2015.
In a recent Press Democrat article, Emma Murphy and Colin Atagi discuss an audit conducted by Sonoma County's Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO). The audit revealed that out of 36 internal investigations into disciplinary cases within the Sheriff's Office over the past six years, half were incomplete. Four cases specifically involved policy violations that received inadequate punishments. As a civilian-led oversight agency, IOLERO's role is to audit the Sheriff's Office's internal investigations and recommend policy changes and disciplinary actions when necessary.

The report highlighted cases involving excessive use of force by deputies, inappropriate relationships with confidential informants, and inaccurate information transmitted by dispatchers. The most severe case concerned a deputy's excessive use of force in 2020, which IOLERO concluded should have resulted in termination. Other cases involved a deputy with an inappropriate relationship with a confidential informant, a county jail correctional deputy's excessive use of force against an inmate, and a dispatcher who created an entry implying a husband involved in a domestic violence incident was violent without factual basis.

Sonoma County Sheriff Eddie Engram attributed the high number of incomplete investigations to differing definitions of "complete investigations" between the Sheriff's Office and IOLERO. He expressed confidence that the ratio of incomplete reports would decrease in the next annual report, as he and IOLERO Director John Alden have begun discussing how to define a complete investigation.

The report coincides with Alden and Engram's pledge to improve their shared work, marking a major step forward for IOLERO and the Sheriff's Office, following a historically combative relationship between the two organizations. IOLERO's report also marked a significant milestone, as the agency has cleared its backlog of investigations, allowing the six-member office to carry out its key responsibility of auditing the Sheriff's Office internal investigations more quickly.

From the perspective of school board trustees, I feel that these recent findings could be concerning when evaluating proposals for school resource officers (SROs) in Sonoma County. As trustees are responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of students, staff, and the school community, the quality and effectiveness of any potential program must be carefully assessed in light of these revelations. The report highlights the need for improved transparency, communication, and accountability within the Sheriff's Office, which directly impacts the SRO program and the level of trust that school board members and the community at large can place in it for those jurisdictions that contract with the Sheriff's Office for services.

To make informed decisions, school board trustees should closely monitor the progress made by the Sheriff's Office and IOLERO in defining and implementing complete investigations and addressing policy violations. It is essential that the collaboration between law enforcement agencies and IOLERO results in proper training, guidance, and oversight, while also addressing concerns raised by parents, students, and the broader community. Additionally, trustees should continue to consider alternative methods of providing safety and support to schools, such as implementing mental health programs, restorative justice practices, or peer mediation initiatives. By actively engaging in discussions and decision-making processes, school board trustees can better evaluate the overall safety and well-being of Sonoma County schools.