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Marin County is polling residents about what they would like to see in civilian oversight of the sheriff’s office.
The survey, available on the county website in several languages, asks residents about their dealings with the sheriff’s office — whether they’ve called for help or advice, been questioned or arrested or simply got to know deputies at a public event — and their thoughts on how, or if, to change how community members lodge complaints against the agency.
The survey is available at marincounty.org/main/sheriffs-oversight-committee.
A recent state law, AB 1185, enables the county government to set up a civilian review board, or an inspector general, or both, as an additional layer or layers of review for the sheriff’s office.
A board or committee would likely focus on reviewing law enforcement issues and building public trust, while an inspector general could be more proactive in enacting longer-lasting changes, such as to policy, said Brian Corr, a past president of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.
Corr served as a moderator for three online community forums held by the county in February. During the forums many county residents complained that they believed certain communities — particularly poorer communities, and communities of color — are overpoliced.
The county has already had almost two years to empanel a committee or empower an inspector general. The new law, passed in 2020, took effect Jan. 1, 2021.
The new law says an oversight board, inspector general or both could be established “either by action of the board of supervisors or through a vote of county residents.”
Law enforcement officials, including Sheriff Jamie Scardina and his predecessor, Robert Doyle, have said that the added layer of oversight might be unnecessary, or at least redundant.
“What we at the sheriff’s office would tell the community at large is, you don’t need a subpoena to ask for our documents,” Scardina, then the undersheriff, told the Board of Supervisors in February. “If we can legally give you documents that we possess, we will give you those documents.”
At the time, the Board of Supervisors was considering, and ultimately rejected, the idea of a pared-down residents advisory group to liaise between the sheriff’s office and the community as a possible alternative to a more powerful oversight committee or inspector general.
Scardina and his office have nevertheless pledged to be “good partners” as the county debates how to oversee his agency.
“We want to use this as an opportunity to listen to the community and hear what the community has to say,” Scardina said at a Nov. 1 forum. “We’re really looking forward to make this process a successful process in making us — the sheriff’s office — a better place.”
Jamillah Jordan, the county’s equity director, said at a Nov. 3 forum that the county would continue to gather feedback through January or February before coming up with proposals for oversight models.
Marin County surveys residents about sheriff’s oversight
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