Sebastopol council reviewing police department audit on June 17

By Zoë Strickland, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, June 17, 2021

seb police car

The Sebastopol City Council is holding a special meeting to receive a presentation about the city’s independent review of the Sebastopol Police Department (SPD), conducted by Jerry Threet, the retired director and founder of the Sonoma County Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review & Outreach (IOLERO). Per the report provided to the city, Threet specializes in reviewing police practices and the civilian oversight of law enforcement.

The special council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 17 at 6 p.m.

The review performed by Threet covers the SPD from 2014 to 2020.

The introduction of the report, in part, states:

“A strong foundation of public support for SPD within Sebastopol already exists – and at the same time, changes in systems and shifts in resources would provide a basis for strengthened community relationships and beneficial new approaches to improve and modernize the department. The department’s accountability systems need serious strengthening in several respects. Concerning administrative investigations of possible employee misconduct, the system should be made predictable, fair, consistent and efficient, for the benefit of all stakeholders. In addition, employee evaluations recently were introduced to SPD, a change that should strengthen employee accountability as it takes hold and becomes standard operating procedure. The city should support the evaluation processes through additional training and some possible fine-tuning to make it a better fit for the law enforcement environment. The process would also greatly benefit from public input mechanisms on issues like customer service and impartial policing. The department has begun to make such changes.”

In an interview on May 24, Sebastopol Mayor Una Glass said that the report took longer than expected to complete, in part because of city staffing changes.

“When we started this process we had one police chief, and then we had an interim police chief and now we have a new police chief,” Glass said. “So to adequately cover what’s going on — there was some additional information that needed to be collected, information from new people, etc. — plus once he completed all of that, then the review of attorneys to make sure that we’re not jeopardizing anybody’s privacy issues.”

The goals of the resort, as stated in the report’s introduction, include:

  • To reform internal accountability systems to ensure internal and external procedural justice, thereby enhancing the confidence of both staff and the public in these systems;
  • To enhance an internal agency culture that values and promotes a community-oriented approach to policing;
  • To strengthen officer performance by formalizing supervisorial review processes across critical areas and strengthening mechanisms for public input into these systems; and
  • To increase transparency and public trust through policy changes, new types of outreach, and the creation of a fitting form of independent oversight.

Glass said that she proposed that the city hire Threet to perform the audit of the police department in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and protests held last summer following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

“I felt like, in our town, the public is very demanding of and concerned about that our law enforcement is engaging in their work in alignment with our community’s values. I felt that Jerry’s advocacy work regarding law enforcement transparency meant that he was the kind of person that would have the kind of values that we’re looking for in somebody auditing what we’ve been doing,” Glass said.

Glass said that Threet’s report is a starting point for a larger communication about what the city can do to ensure that it has the best kind of law enforcement and community support that it can have.

This article was produced by SoCoNews. See more news at soconews.org