Decision 2020

Sonoma County Voters Favoring Measure to Strengthen Oversight of Sheriff's Office

A Sonoma County measure to strengthen the office that oversees the Sheriff's Office seemed on the way to approval based on the unofficial vote tally from county elections officials Tuesday night.

At about 10:15 p.m., with 427 of 668 precincts reporting, 67% of voters had cast their ballots in favor of Measure P.

The measure grants the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach, IOLERO, increased access to Sheriff's Office personnel records and body camera footage during investigations involving deputies' use of force, alleged bias, sexual harassment and assault, among other things.

Supporters hailed the measure as an important step in ensuring accountability and transparency from the county's law enforcement officials by giving IOLERO the staff and budget it needs to property fulfill its intended function.

"Oh man, I couldn't be more excited," said Sonoma County Board of Education Member Herman Hernandez, on of the measure's main backers.

"Since the George Floyd tragedy there has been an uprising of communities saying we need change, we need more transparency we need to collaborate with the community and I think Sonoma County spoke strongly with their vote," Hernandez said.

Measure P also authorizes IOLERO to receive whistleblower complaints and audit racial profiling data and would give it the authority to independently review all "sources of investigative evidence, directly contact complainants and witnesses, contact custodians of evidence, and independently subpoena records or testimony," according to an analysis from the county counsel's office. 

Measure P also sets IOLERO's annual budget at 1% of the Sheriff's Office budget.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to place the measure the ballot over the objections of Sheriff Mark Essick and the Sonoma County Deputy Sheriffs' Association.

Neither Essick nor SCDSA President Michael Vail responded to requests for comment but both submitted arguments against Measure P in the county's voter information guide saying, in part, that it creates unnecessary red tape and was placed on the ballot without input from law enforcement.

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