On Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors opted against creating an inspector general position or creating a citizens oversight body to look over Sheriff David Livingston and the Contra Costa County Sheriffs Office.
The Board of Supervisors, instead, decided to implement quarterly reports (every 3 months) to report out a series of data in a public forum at a Board meeting.
“Initially this was envisioned as an every 6-months for reporting, there was an interest in a more frequent reporting quarterly which we discussed and we could accommodate,” said Sheriff Livingston. “The presentation to the public protection committee or the board of supervisors would be done by command staff or executive command to be in a position to answer questions and respond to committee concerns on any of our reporting items.”
Livingston presented a power point to the public and said the suggested reporting areas would include the following:
- Total number of bookings (broken down by cities)
- Total number of custody alternative participants
- In-custody deaths
- Medical data overseen by County Health
- Total calls for service (9-1-1 calls & non-emergency)
- Total 5150 calls for service
- MHET deployments
- Total number of Coroner Cases
- Total Number of autopsies completed
- Coroner’s inquest conducted
- Number of internal affairs investigation
- Use of force events (serious and/or injury
- Assaults on staff
- Any significant events of note
He continued by stating additional items suggested by the public protection committee
- Any ICE interactions
- Racial Data (already provided to racial justice oversight body)
- Eviction Orders issued by the Superior Court
- Evictions processed by Sheriffs Office
“I will point out, ironically, the Sheriff does provide a lot of data to the racial justice oversight body,” said Andersen. “AB 1185, which gives us the authority, states this board assists the Board of Supervisors with its duties in overseeing the sheriff… this was a way for us to exercise the oversight that we are empowered to do.”
With Andersen sitting on the public protection committee, she highlighted many of the same callers will call in stating they do not understand the law and a citizens oversight committee will provide more transparency.
Andersen stated the Board of Supervisors receive transparency from the sheriff but the public.
“This was a way to provide that same transparency to the entire public and allow them to get the same information that we are getting but to increase our board of supervisor oversight,” said Andersen who noted they get periodic reports and one-on-one communication with the sheriff. She called it a win-win to promote greater transparency.
Andersen explained they didn’t need another board to serve as an advisory group to the Board of Supervisors and would prefer to do it herself.
Supervisor John Gioia said he didn’t feel this went far enough although he appreciated the increased transparency.
“AB 1185 allows for these civilian oversight bodies to have subpoena power. I think that is very important,” stated Gioia. “Under what is being proposed here, that doesn’t exist. I wanted to understand if the committee had any discussion on that issue. In looking at the legislation, the legislator and the Governor deemed that important enough to give the power to establish this civilian oversight, not just to the Board of Supervisors, but to the voters of the county.”
He noted that under the bill, if the public does not like how they established the oversight and transparency, it could go to a vote of the public on a future ballot.
Andersen replied “yes and no” to Gioia.
She explained that under AB 1185 if they felt like they were not getting answers to questions or the sheriff was not being transparent that the Board of Supervisors could at that point go to the Attorney General or appoint an inspector general. She believed that right now they are not like other counties with problems and that they have well run jails and have transparency with the sheriff—such as in custody deaths they are alerted to it, or misconduct they have full disclosure.
“The ability for us to have independent oversight through civilian oversight is valuable for accountability and transparency,” said Gioia who stated a subpoena power would help them do the best job they can while working with the sheriff. He provided an example of the system failing such as in the two Danville cases where an officer killed two men.
Andersen argued the system failed because they do not have quarterly reporting and that an oversight committee would be no different than what they would receive as the Board of Supervisors.
“To me, I don’t feel the need to delegate that responsibility to a citizens board if it’s something I believe we can do as the Board of Supervisors as it’s our job to do so and this provides us a forum where the public can ask those same questions,” explained Andersen.
Supervisor Federal Glover said one of the things they were looking at were how could the public ask timely questions and this board could be addressed in a very routine basis.
“That is why we looked at when this could take place, quarterly hearings were there,” said Glover noting they had to decide if it would come before the public protection committee or the Board of Supervisors as a whole.
Glover confirmed with staff that the Board of Supervisors cannot remove the County Sheriff. Staff said the Board does not have the authority, but rather would come from a vote of the public or from a grand jury who would make a recommendation to the supervisor court.
After many public comments, the Board of Supervisor discussed the issue.
Supervisor Andersen explained why she was against an oversight board and in favor of the Board of Supervisor oversight meeting quarterly with the sheriff.
“A lot of people were in support of an oversight board and something I do not support,” said Andersen. “I am out in the community a lot and I am speaking to many individuals and groups, organizations and I have not heard strong support for an oversight board for the sheriff. I recognize today we got the flood of calls, racial justice oversight had those same individuals calling a couple days ago. Yes, there are definitely advocates for this. My goal is really to move forward, create greater transparency within the community.”
She urged the Board of Supervisors to take on this issue themselves, provide a forum for transparent communication so there is collective answers and did not believe they needed a separate body for them to do their jobs.
“We do have subpoena power through an inspector general should we sometime need that,” said Andersen. “However, I don’t know if we need that because the sheriff is already overseen by state agencies.”
Supervisor Gioia called this an ongoing issue for several years since the racial justice task force first recommended the establishment of an independent civilian oversight.
“I think civilian oversight of the sheriff’s office is just good government and I support it regardless of who the sheriff is,” said Gioia. “We are seeing this oversight become a best practice in Bay Area counties. If we don’t go in that direction, we will be in the minority in bay area counties in terms of this practice. State law specifically gives and the voters the ability to establish this.”
Gioia continued under the law no one is saying records that should not be released would be released, the subpoena power is a tool to allow them to access to records that are allowable to be released.
“Think about this, when the determination of whether a relevant document to be released is within the control of the department you are investigating, you really don’t have true oversight,” stated Gioia. “This is something that is good practice whoever the sheriff is which is why other counties are moving in this direction.”
Gioia continued by discussing without the oversight board or a inspector general, the board of supervisors have this additional subpoena power to get access to additional documents to be meaningful in our responsibility.
“Under the proposal by public protection, at an absolute minimum, that quarterly report needs to be before the full board of supervisors, not before just the committee because that is where there is greater visibility and access,” stated Gioia. “But really, it does not go far enough, and we need independent civilian oversight.”
Supervisor Diane Burgis asked if there is evidence if the sheriff is not “faithfully fulfilling” duties and hypothetically the Board of Supervisors are not holding him accountable if other entities that the sheriff is responsible too for the jails.
County staff confirmed the Attorney General has a great deal of oversight and state agencies watching over the jails and standards. There was also the District Attorney such as in the Andrew Hall case or make referral to Grand Jury or voters who can recall someone who they feel is not fulfilling their duties or the voters who can choose an alternative in another election.
“I am very supportive of the quarterly oversight report,” said Burgis. “I believe if we ever wanted to appoint an inspector general that we should have things lined up to be quicker and easier so they could be responsive. That might be something we can work on. The citizens have a chance to vote. That is the ultimate citizens oversight.”
Burgis further explained they are in a position where they haven’t seen the need for a citizens oversight committee but believe people have agendas and opinions and different levels of understanding of what people do.
“We experience that with some of the public comments. There is some misunderstandings, some misinformation and all of that. I want people who are actually responsible and are educated and legally prepared to do what needs to be done,” stated Burgis. “I support the quarterly reports and would like to make sure that we have some sort of policy or procedure that is set so if we ever need to respond quickly and be responsive to appoint an inspector general so we are ready.”
Supervisor Federal Glover said this has been an ongoing conversation and public protection for the last three years or so and needed to acknowledge the number of constituents who have looked at this oversight committee.
“How do we move forward trying to ensure our public is engaged in terms of what is taking place and that those things that we look for the sheriff to share in terms of issues that they are at the top of the list,” said Glover. “That those are the important things that are being reported and there is a dialogue taking place to better understand the philosophy and how law enforcement is being handled in the county.”
He called this an important to him.
“As an individual that is part of an over represented group of individuals in the criminal justice system this is very important to me. Yes, I want to make sure that oversight is done and want to make sure we are properly addressing things in order not to find ourselves continuing to have the conversations and that people can view and make choices in terms of representation based on their knowledge and ability,” stated Glover. “I think as a first step, and this comes from a lot of consideration, as a first step I want to see us move to the quarterly meetings and I want people to have the opportunity to ask their questions and there is a dialogue to take place. I want this before this Board of Supervisors so that it is heard, televised and the public has opportunity to engage. If that doesn’t go far enough, then we look at what we want to do. Whether bringing on an inspector general or another level of oversight.”
He said the Board of Supervisors should own up to its responsibility as a first step and enter into the dialogue.
“If that is not working for us or the public, then we will bring this back,” stated Glover who said this conversation will not end and will continue until racial justice and equity is across the board then this is ongoing conversations. “As a first step, I will accept the recommendation with a clear understanding that we continue the dialogue.”
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff challenged the staff report saying Sacramento and Santa Cruz which are not part of the 9 Bay Area counties and with Napa not having oversight, that Contra Costa County would not be in the “minority” on this item.
“Napa is a no so we would not be in the minority if we did not have an oversight,” stated Mitchoff. “We would be in the majority of not having one.”
She stated what the public protection committee has recommended is better than perhaps an oversight board by a citizens committee because at least its held in the chambers, videoed and people can watch it live or after the fact.
“This provides a better forum and if its quarterly,” said Mitchoff noting it would be every 3-months. “We need to set a schedule so the public is aware of it.”
Gioia stated he would support the item today.
“I want to be clear; my comment is this does not go far enough and I prefer citizen oversight and I hope that stays at the forefront of discussion but I don’t want to oppose having these quarterly meetings as long as they are before the full Board of Supervisors.”
The Board of Supervisors in a 5-0 vote in support of quarterly reports.
From the Board Packet
Counties with Sheriff Oversight Body and/or Inspector General
- Sacramento: In 2007, the Board of Supervisors commissioned the Office of Inspector General. The Office of Inspector General has broad oversight powers that include the evaluation of the overall quality of law enforcement, custodial, and security services; the authority to encourage systemic change and provide ‘monitor style’ oversight of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
- San Francisco: On November 3, 2020, voters approved Proposition D (added to Ballot by the Board of Supervisors). Proposition D amends the charter to create two new oversight bodies for the San Francisco County Sheriff’s Department: the Office of Inspector General (OIG), which would investigate misconduct within the department, and a seven-member Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board
- Santa Clara: In 2018, the Board of Supervisors adopted through ordinance the Office of Correction and Law Enforcement Monitoring (“OCLEM”), designed to provide independent monitoring of the County’s correction and law enforcement functions. The OCLEM did not have subpoena power. On December 15, 2020, through a Resolution, the Board of Supervisors amended the municipal code to reflect that the existing OCLEM may now issue a subpoena or subpoena duces tecum to the sheriff, or to any officer or employee appointed by the Sheriff, when necessary to obtain information for the performance of tasks set forth by the Board.
- Sonoma: In 2015, the Board of Supervisors created the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) by BOS Resolution. On November 3, 2020, voters approved Measure P (added to Ballot by the Board of Supervisors) which expanded the IOLERO oversight to include subpoena power.
Counties without a Sheriff Oversight Body and/or Inspector General
- Alameda: Since early 2021, the topic of establishing a Sheriff oversight body or office of inspector general has been discussed, but Alameda County has yet to officially create a sheriff oversight body or office of inspector general. Alameda County has been gathering information to inform their process of developing a sheriff oversight body and/or Inspector General
- Marin: On February 1, 2022, the Board of Supervisors considered establishing a Sheriff’s Community Working Group but ultimately took no action.
- San Mateo: No actions taken
- Santa Cruz: On January 11, 2022, the Board of Supervisors directed staff County staff to develop a scope of work that meets the requirements of AB 1185 and issue a Request for Proposal or enter into contract with an independent police auditor to begin work in FY2022/23
- Solano: On November 2, 2021, the Board of Supervisors: 1) declined moving forward with the creation of an AB1185 Civilian Oversight Board; 2) requested the Sheriff, County Administrator, and the Chair of the Board of Supervisors work on the formation of a community forum; and 3) requested the Sheriff identify areas where members of the public can participate in already established committees.