- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27—Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday are set to form a preliminary office to provide civilian oversight of law enforcement in what would be the first program addressing police-community relations in the wake of the 2013 death of Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old boy fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy.

The broad-brush proposal does not define precisely what the oversight office would do but asks the supervisors to appoint a current county employee to head the program in its initial phase and add staff to the Sheriff’s Office to serve as a liaison.

The proposal was drawn from the most ambitious recommendation by a county-appointed panel studying the community’s relationship with law enforcement agencies after Lopez was shot by a deputy in Santa Rosa’s southwestern outskirts. After a yearlong analysis of civilian oversight models across the country, the Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force in May presented the supervisors with a plan to launch an law enforcement auditor office based loosely on an existing program in San Jose.

The board budgeted $2.6 million over two years and signaled key interest in the auditor program.

County staff on Tuesday will propose the board roll out the auditor office in two phases, starting with the appointment of principal analyst Caluha Barnes, who has been working with the task force since August, to serve as the interim director of the oversight body. Barnes would then recruit a consultant qualified to review law enforcement investigations and begin defining what the auditor will do and how much staff is needed to handle the workload.

Activists moved by Lopez’s death who have been closely following the work of the task force responded to the proposal with frustration.

Jim Duffy, a Rohnert Park resident whose personal research on oversight bodies was folded into the task force’s recommendations, said Monday that the proposal was not ambitious enough.

Duffy sent a letter to Supervisor David Rabbitt and the rest of the board, pressing the county to begin by hiring someone with experience auditing law enforcement and community engagement. Duffy suggested the county recruit an attorney certified by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement to lead the office.

The current auditor proposal would expend just over $1 million on the oversight office, which includes a part-time aide to the director, assigned to the county administrator’s office, as well as a full-time lieutenant and assistant within the Sheriff’s Office.

The board will also consider allocating $1 million over two years to support a plan currently underway to build a park on the long-vacant lot on Moorland Avenue where Lopez was shot.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or [email protected] On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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