Reforms showing progress at Sheriff's office, yet many issues remain, says report
Written by Marc Albert
Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick photo credit: (Credit: courtesy, County of Sonoma)
Progress and continued problems were both cited in the annual IOLERO report on the Sonoma County Sheriff's office, It was delivered to the county board of supervisors Tuesday.
The Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach, created to build transparency and trust between the sheriff's office and community, pointed to adoption of a new firearms use policy, and the drafting of a de-escalation policy as successes aimed at reducing violent confrontations.
Still, some long standing issues remain. Garrick Byers was recently appointed interim head of IOLERO.
"And finally trends. As I mentioned the incomplete investigations, we're still getting some of those, fewer than we used to, I'm working on the backlog and I'm still finding a lot there, and issues with medical and mental health treatment at the jail. That is a recurring theme in many of these, particularly with people with mental issues. We've made a lot of these complaints. We'd like to see that part of the Sheriff's functions beefed up, better medical treatment, better mental health treatment."
Nancy Pemberton, who serves on IOLERO's Community Advisory Council, said responsibility rests with an outside contractor.
"The issue of the medical and mental health treatment goes beyond simple staffing issues. I think that we need to look at the contract with WellPath, which is the for-profit company that provides the medical care in the jail and has a terrible reputation nationwide."
Pemberton did find issues with the sheriff's office's internal investigations, which IOLERO reviews. "We have investigations where particular policies are simply ignored, when they exonerate somebody, and the interviews of deputies by the investigating officers seems to be incredibly perfunctory and very deferential," she said.
Pemberton was also among those who noted a particular absence at the meeting. "The sheriff's department isn't even present as a representative, as an official representative to this meeting and I find that quite discouraging."
When queried by supervisors, County Administrator Sheryl Bratton said the Sheriff's Office was alerted to the meeting by email December 27th. Sheriff's Office Spokeswoman Misty Wood in an email to KRCB said the Sheriff's Office was not invited.
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