Back in December of 2013, in the aftermath of the police shooting death of Andy Lopez, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors created the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Task Force.
I cannot overemphasize the gravity of the work that this task force has performed, and how important it is going to be for our supervisors to pay heed to its many forward-thinking recommendations.
Accordingly, I ask all supervisors to meet their true responsibilities as leaders and resist any temptation to shirk and scuttle these recommendations; rather, these must be strengthened where necessary and adopted with enthusiasm and gusto, including sending Sheriff Steve Freitas a letter asking him to remove Erick Gelhaus from patrol duty and the creation of a community oversight board with both subpoena and investigatory powers.
The task force recommendations were born out of the concept of participatory community discussions. These discussions were sponsored by the Community Engagement and Healing Subcommittee and are reflective of an abiding desire to ensure that law enforcement is fully accountable to the public. We in this community well understand that in a post–Andy Lopez world, the failed policies of the past, if allowed to stand, will continue to serve as impediments to meaningful change.
Here are questions the public should be asking the supervisors: Will you take a bold, brave stand against police brutality, police shootings and in-custody jail deaths? Will you intrepidly display your power as a chartered governmental body and take proactive measures to curb these shameful occurrences so that you may take your place in history on the side of right?
That choice, ultimately, is going to be up to them.
I will close with these inspiring words from poet Ezra Pound, which I urge our supervisors to keep in mind as they ponder the message above: "It was you that broke the new wood, / Now is a time for carving."
Thomas D. Bonfigli lives in Santa Rosa.
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