Law enforcement not above the law

According to a recent Gallup poll, 48 percent of Americans have “some,” “very little” or no trust in law enforcement. This is the lowest rate of confidence in law enforcement the United States has seen in 22 years. 

The relationship between law enforcement and the general public has been on thin ice due to recent tensions rooting in excessive use of force. But what can law enforcement offices do to alleviate the tension in these kinds of cases? 

On Sept. 24, three Sonoma County deputies were called to a residence in Sonoma Valley due to a resident’s complaint about a loud argument. Once they arrived, the wife answered the door. While she was being questioned, two deputies reportedly went to find the husband. He was in his bedroom and refused to open the door. 

The deputies were able to get inside the bedroom, and according to a press release by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, “the deputy ordered the husband to stand up, but the man refused. The deputy grabbed the man’s arm and the man pulled away. The deputy deployed his Taser, but it had little effect... The deputy then pulled out his baton and struck the man in the leg. The second deputy became involved and the two deputies tried to physically restrain the man on the bed... The man was able to break free and run towards the bedroom door. The primary deputy then swung his baton several times into the man’s back ... The third deputy deployed his Taser which was effective and they were able to get him into handcuffs.”

Once the struggle ended, the deputies conducted an investigation and found the incident to be a non-criminal domestic argument. 

After the deputies were able to handcuff the man, he was taken to the hospital and then booked into Sonoma County Jail for threatening an officer, resisting and obstructing an officer and a battery on an officer. The names of those involved have not yet been released. 

On Oct. 11, after reviewing the case, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office dropped all criminal charges against the husband.  The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office then started an internal investigation of the incident, including a review of the body camera footage, to which they found, “that the actions of the primary deputy were excessive for the circumstances and were in violation of our use of force policy. Our use of force policy specifically states that use of force by deputies must be reasonable and appropriate for every situation and in this case we felt this deputy’s use of force was excessive. This deputy is no longer employed by our office.”

Currently, there is an independent investigation by the Santa Rosa Police Department in coordination with the district attorney which will determine whether criminal charges will be filed against the primary deputy. 

“The sheriff is deeply concerned over the incident that transpired. We are conducting a thorough investigation of all deputies involved and will take prompt, firm, and appropriate actions in this matter,” the sheriff’s office said in the press release. “We have reached out to the victim in this case and offered our sincere apology. We also want to apologize to our community... This is an isolated incident that we are proactively addressing, and does not reflect the values of the Sheriff’s Office.”

While the primary deputy should have adhered to the use of force policy in the first place, this is the kind of response law enforcement should have when excessive force is used. 

Too many times in the news we have heard about case after case of cover-ups by law enforcement to protect an out-of-line officer. 

Three years ago last week, 13-year-old Andy Lopez from Santa Rosa was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy. Lopez had been carrying an airsoft gun that looked very similar to an assault rifle, and because of it he lost his life.

This case has caused extreme controversy and tensions in Sonoma County, so it’s refreshing to see the Sheriff’s Office not only punish this deputy but also issue an apology to the community. 

Law enforcement is a dangerous, demanding job, but it’s also one that comes with a high level of responsibility. 

These are the people who are supposed to protect and serve the community, and they must be held accountable as so. 

We expect the Sheriff’s Office, and all law enforcement offices, to continue to have high standards and enforce them in these kinds of cases. 

No one should be brutally beaten and tazed in their own home for a non-criminal argument.

 

To read the press release, click here