Monthly News and Updates
JULY 29, 2021|NUMBER 27
Dear Community Partners,
IOLERO’s July newsletter announces an important change to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) firearms policy based on a recommendation from IOLERO’s Community Advisory Council (CAC). This newsletter will also discuss IOLERO’s new email and physical addresses, a congratulatory shout-out to IOLERO’s interns, an update on Measure P, the August CAC meeting, and a Spotlight feature from Mary-Frances Walsh, the Executive Director at NAMI Sonoma County (National Alliance on Mental Illness). 
Sheriff’s Office Accepts Recommendation on Firearm Use.

IOLERO is pleased to announce that the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) accepted the Community Advisory Council’s (CAC) recommendation on the use of firearms.

On July 12, 2021, the CAC unanimously voted to submit their recommendations on the use of force and de-escalation to the Sheriff’s Office. Over the past year, the CAC had been doing research and working on drafting evidence-based recommendations to the Sheriff’s Office.

Approaching the recommendations from an evidence-based perspective means that the CAC did not simply ask the Sheriff’s Office to make changes to its policy because it seemed like a good idea to them. Rather, the CAC took issues that are important and relevant to the community, such as this firearms policy, and attempted to show the Sheriff’s Office why making this change to their firearms policy is good for the community and also supported by other law enforcement agencies, social science and the law. 

In this instance, the CAC wanted the Sheriff’s Office to require that any time a deputy points his or her firearm at a person to gain compliance — even if the firearm is not fired — it should be documented as a use of force and reported to a supervisor. Previously, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office policy did not consider pointing a firearm at a person a use of force. The Sheriff’s Office accepted this recommendation and revised its policy manual accordingly.
To support this recommendation and make it persuasive to the Sheriff’s Office, the CAC located other law enforcement agencies that have a similar firearms policy (where the pointing of a firearm is considered a use of force) including at least one sheriff’s department. IOLERO attorneys assisted by providing case law where courts have held that when a police officer points a firearm to gain compliance, that act is considered a “show of authority,” a seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and therefore is a use of force. IOLERO also provided the CAC with use-of-force guidelines from the Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) to support this recommendation, and a summary of several studies related to the relationship between police agency policies and rates of officer-involved deaths. 

Studies show that law enforcement agencies that require officers to file a report or document when they point their guns but do not shoot at civilians had significantly lower rates of gun deaths involving police officers. The research suggested that the paperwork requirement may act as a deterrent to unnecessary use of force because of the added demand on officers’ time, the implicit recommendation from leadership of avoiding unnecessary gun draws, and a general commitment to best practices among agencies that have this type of policy. One study found that over a 15-year period, at least 40 fewer people would have died from officer-involved shootings if the agency had this policy. One of the researchers’ conclusions was that this policy change – requiring officers to document when they point their firearm to gain compliance – has the potential to save lives without putting officers at further risk. (Jennings, Jay and Meghan Roblado. Preventing the Use of Deadly Force:  The Relationship between Police Agency Policies and Rates of Officer-Involved Gun Deaths. Public Administration Review, Volume 77, Issue 2. 2017. Pp. 217-226). 

This policy change by the Sonoma County Sheriffs Office is a huge accomplishment. This is the first time the SCSO has implemented a community-driven policy recommendation related to the use of force. This unprecedented policy change brings us hope and makes our community safer.

The CAC also recommended a de-escalation policy and other use-of-force policies related to the prone restraint (applying pressure to a person’s backside while he or she is restrained, face-down on the ground), protests and canines. These additional policy recommendations are still under review by the SCSO. 

You may review the CAC recommendations in their entirety by clicking here.
IOLERO is relocating and has a new email address! 
IOLERO has a new email address! Effective immediately, you may contact IOLERO at: This new email address has replaced the former email address Emails sent to the old email address will continue to be forwarded to us.

Beginning on Monday, August 2nd, IOLERO will be working out of our new office. IOLERO’s new address is: 3333 Mendocino Ave. Suite 240, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

Also, if you wish to subscribe to our mailing list just text the word IOLERO to 42828, and send us your email address.
Update on the PERB matter
As many of you know, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted to appeal a June ruling by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) concerning Measure P, the voter-approved initiative to strengthen oversight of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, while also moving ahead with the meet and confer process with two bargaining units that filed the complaints. Read the County’s press release here.

The County’s petition was filed on July 22nd with the Court of Appeal. PERB is now required to file the administrative record, at which time the County will have 35 days to file its opening brief. The County’s opening brief is scheduled to be filed around the first week of November. 

You may sign up to receive notifications from the Court of Appeal about this matter here.
Congratulations to IOLERO’s Inaugural Class of Interns from Sonoma State University (SSU)! 
This summer, IOLERO’s inaugural class of interns graduated! We want to send out our heartfelt congratulations to our interns and wish them the best on their journey to continuing their education, making a contribution to our community and leading by example. Here are some updates and comments from our interns about their experience at IOLERO: 
Carmen Martinez: “The extensive research that was conducted on 50+ counties in California made me realize that I want to pursue a master's degree. My research would be a continuation of what team SSU started, police-community relations. It also caused a major shift in my perspective of law enforcement and its culture. When I started as an intern, I had only experienced negative encounters with law enforcement however, this oversight agency gave me the opportunity to create positive encounters. In other words, it gave me hope for a positive change within law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve."
Zachary Harkins: “My plan for the future is to enter ether the forestry service as either a ranger, game warden or Homeland Security. From IOLERO I gained a greater ability to conduct research and I also gained more experience in learning about other peoples’ perspectives which I never I would have been exposed to without IOLERO.”
Kaory Hernandez: “I learned a lot as an intern at IOLERO…I want to [continue to] work towards advocacy and help the community towards a safer environment where everyone can freely ask for help.”
Abbygail Tardie: Was accepted into the Masters Program in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at U.C. Irvine. “Interning at IOLERO played a major role in my pursuance of a graduate degree and provided me with invaluable experience that has helped me develop a more diversified worldview.” 
The August Community Advisory Council (CAC) meeting 
On Monday August 2nd at 6pm, the CAC will be discussing Sheriff’s Department Hiring, Diversity, and Discipline. CAC guests will include:
Margo Frasier
Margo Frasier is nationally known as an expert in law enforcement and corrections having served as a subject matter expert for the United States Department of Justice, Special Litigation Section, in numerous cases. Ms. Frasier served as the elected sheriff of Travis County, Texas from 1997 through 2004; the first woman to hold the office where she started as a deputy more than two decades earlier. She is the Vice-President of the Board of Directors for the National Association for the Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE). Read more about Ms. Frasier here.
Marina Luna
Marina Luna is the Administrative Services Officer for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office’s personnel bureau. Ms. Luna was born and raised in the Roseland area of Santa Rosa. She has one brother and her parents still reside in the home she was born in. Marina is a 1997 graduate of Elsie Allen High School (first graduating class) and received an AA Degree in General Studies from Santa Rosa Junior College, and a Bachelor of Art’s Degree in Liberal Studies from Sonoma State University. Ms. Luna manages the Personnel Bureau including a staff of two sergeants, nine background investigators and two administrative staff.
Scott Dunn
Scott Dunn is a retired lieutenant who works as an extra-help background investigator for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. Lt. Dunn was born and raised mostly in the Bay Area. He received an AA Degree from Chabot College in Park Technology, and a BS Degree in Resource Management from California State University, Sacramento. He was the first person in his family to receive a college education. Lt. Dunn Scott moved to Sonoma County when he was hired as a Park Ranger in 1981 for Sonoma County Regional Parks. In 1985 he began his career as a Deputy Sheriff for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. During his career at the Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Dunn worked a variety of assignments including Patrol, Marine Enforcement Unit, Helicopter Unit, Crime Scene Investigation Unit, Environmental Crimes Unit, and Tactical Team. He was promoted up through the ranks as a Detective, Sergeant, and Lieutenant.
Lt. Dunn served as the Department’s “Team Captain” during the agency’s participation in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life for 10 years.
NAMI Sonoma County, A Local Resource for Those Affected by Mental Illness 
By: Mary-Frances Walsh 
Mental illness is common, affecting 1 in 5 adults. Lifetime mental health conditions begin early: 50% by age 14 and 75% by age 24. Yet the average delay between symptoms and treatment is 11 years – despite research that tells us that the earlier treatment begins, the greater the hope of recovery.

Mental illness affects a person’s, thinking, feeling and moods. Many persons who live with a mental health condition function well; their condition is not obvious. But serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression, can impact day-to-day functioning and relationships – and the entire family. 

NAMI, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, is dedicated to helping persons with mental illness and those who care for and support them, to build a better life. At the national level, NAMI advocates for increased research, access to services, education, treatment, and support.

At the local level, NAMI Sonoma County provides education programs, community and student presentations, weekly support groups and a bilingual Warmline. These are open to anyone affected by mental health challenges, personally or as a family member or caregiver. 

Historically, treatment options for persons living with serious illnesses like schizophrenia were very limited, as was research and knowledge. Considered unable to function in the community, thousands were institutionalized for life – until the 1960s when State hospitals began to close, often leaving patients and their families on their own. 

Public knowledge about mental illness was very limited and support more so. Families supporting a loved one with these illnesses felt isolated, ashamed, even guilty. They were often counseled not to talk about it openly, contributing to the stigma of mental illness. 

In 1981, a group of local families who had a daughter, son, parent, sibling, or grandchild with a serious mental illness began meeting up in Santa Rosa. They shared an “urgent need” for information and support. Their group evolved to become NAMI Sonoma County, which has been allied with the National Alliance on Mental Illness since 1984.

Today, awareness and knowledge about mental health have much improved. Recovery is seen as possible. Knowing the warning signs and getting care early have been shown to improve outcomes. Connectedness and support are considered vital for both the people experiencing mental health challenges and their family members.

Yet today’s mental health care system is highly fragmented. There are cost barriers, insurance coverage restrictions, and a shortage of providers. Psychiatrists and mental health professionals who speak a language other than English are in particularly short supply. Waits for outpatient counseling appointments are common. Waits for an open psychiatric bed are also common, often creating a need to board patients in hospital emergency departments for hours or days.

Families often struggle to provide support for a loved one whose mental illness means that they cannot see that they are sick and refuse care or medications that could help. Many families struggle with loved ones who face both mental illness and substance use disorders.

When a loved one experiences a mental health crisis due to manic, depressive, suicidal or psychotic episodes, a family may make the difficult decision to call 911 for help. In Sonoma County, they may be fortunate to have a crisis occur when the county’s Mobile Support Teams are on duty. Members of these teams offer crisis assessment, de-escalation, and resource referrals, but they have limited hours, limited staffing and must be invited to assist by law enforcement.

Mental health crises that are not handled well can end in injury or loss of life, and can also result in a loved one’s arrest, this is one reason why the Sonoma County Jail has been called the largest provider of mental health services in the county. Fortunately, Sonoma County is looking toward creating a new approach to mental health crisis intervention.

The cities of Santa Rosa and Petaluma, and their police departments, are investing in pilot projects that mean most mental health crisis calls will be responded to by mental health professionals – a significant step in the right direction. And in 2022, a new nationwide three-digit number (988) will be put into place for calls related to suicide intervention. NAMI and other mental health organizations hope that this number will be used for any kind of mental health crisis. But a system that can adequately respond to these calls will need funding.

In Sonoma County, these remain significant unmet capacity needs for a mental health system that offers care at multiple levels, ranging from increased providers, to 24/7, county-wide crisis intervention services, psychiatric beds, post-crisis residential services and supportive housing. So long as these are in short supply, the community will continue to bear the costs of a system primarily focused on costly crisis-level, care. And families will continue to need support and connection with others who understand the challenges.

NAMI Sonoma County wants anyone experiencing mental health-related challenges to realize that they are not alone. Their Warmline is a starting place, for information, support and help with identifying resources that can help, at 866-960-6264 or 

About the Author:
Mary-Frances Walsh is the Executive Director at NAMI Sonoma County (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a nonprofit organization of families, friends, and individuals whose lives have been affected by mental illness.
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