Sep 01, 2023
Bridging the Gap: Understanding Community and Law Enforcement
Sep 01, 2023
By Gustavo Goncalves
Law enforcement agencies are created to enhance public safety. They are entrusted with a broad range of powers and protections to carry out their duties. Incidents of law enforcement misconduct have damaged public trust and raised questions about the adequacy of the systems of checks and balances that oversee law enforcement. AB 1185 offers a new mechanism to strike a balance and open a dialogue.
In 2017, three Sacramento Sheriff deputies fired 28 shots at Mikel McIntyre a 32-year-old unarmed African-American man. McIntyre was experiencing a mental health crisis off of Route 50 in Rancho Cordova. He hurled rocks at deputies striking one deputy in the head and causing injuries that required stitches. McIntyre was shot 7 times, 6 of them striking him in the back.
In February of 2019, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty introduced AB 1185. AB 1185, also known as sheriff oversight, authorizes counties to create a sheriff oversight board and an office of inspector general and grants the bodies subpoena power enforceable by court action. The bill passed the Public Safety Committee and Assembly. However, due to the lack of time, the bill became inactive as a two-year bill.
In May 2020, 46-year-old George Floyd, an African-American man, was arrested after allegedly making a purchase with a counterfeit $20 bill. During the arrest, Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, killing Floyd. The murder of George Floyd led to nationwide protests in the summer of 2020. Issues of law enforcement accountability, trust, and transparency were reexamined. On September 30, 2020, AB 1185 was signed into law and enacted in January 2021. AB 1185 created the opportunity to provide oversight and increased accountability of sheriffs across the state.
In June 2021, the Marin Human Rights Commission presented the first community forum on AB 1185. The forum featured Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, author of AB 1185, former Marin Sheriff Robert Doyle, former Supervisor Damon Connolly, former Supervisor Judy Arnold, and Cesar Lagleva with the Action Coalition for People of Color. The Board of Supervisors continues to work to implement AB 1185.
In July 2022 an incident involving Julio Jimenz Lopez, a gardener drinking in public and San Rafael Police Officers Daisy Mazariegos and Brandon Nail quickly escalated. Lopez was struck by officer Nail and later charged with felony resisting arrest. The charges against Lopez were dropped after the body camera footage was reviewed. The incident spurred controversy and the public demanded justice. The City of San Rafael is currently undergoing its own process to provide greater trust and accountability.
In August of 2022, the Marin County Office of Equity and the Human Rights Commission convened a Community Outreach Working Group to review the options for oversight provided by AB 1185 and to develop recommendations for the preferred framework for Marin residents.
Fifteen community members were selected for their professional, educational, or lived experience in areas related to law enforcement oversight and connection to Marin County. The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) was hired to facilitate the community engagement process, provide technic
In June 2023, the Board of Supervisors heard recommendations for creating an 11-member commission and an inspector general to oversee the sheriff’s department. The proposals are the result of months of hard work and difficult conversations between the working group, the Sheriff’s Office, the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, and the community to come to an understanding. The conversations helped to better define the scope of the working group and the protections afforded to law enforcement under the Peace Officer Bill of Rights (POBR).
The Board of Supervisors allocated $600,000 to implement AB 1185 and is expected to review a draft ordinance to enact AB 1185 at the end of the summer of 2023.
The real-world situations that play out in the community highlight the challenges. Issues of what constitutes an appropriate response, a perceived threat, sufficient training, and abuse of power must be addressed.
Data is available to inform the conversation. Dialogue is required to develop a shared understanding of the realities unfolding beyond the statistics. Success is contingent upon a robust dialogue, addressing each party’s needs and concerns, and taking action consistent with our shared values of public safety, trust, and respect.
These issues have been raised at the national level through campaigns and organizations like #8Can’tWait, Advancement Project, and the federal Task Force on 21st Century Policing. While campaigns and legislative changes bring greater awareness and transparency, an open dialogue remains critical to identifying a local solution with residents most impacted by systemic issues (housing affordability, economic opportunity, racism, healthcare access, etc.) and current policing practices in our community.
If AB 1185 brings us closer to having these conversations, understanding the person behind the badge, and building relationships with people in our communities, I welcome this added layer of transparency and accountability.
Gustavo Goncalves is a legislative aide working for the Marin County Board of Supervisors on issues related to criminal justice and behavioral health, housing, homelessness, economic vitality, and more. He currently serves as a District 1 Aide for the County of Marin.