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State Board Voids Parts Of Sonoma County Police Oversight Measure

SANTA ROSA (BCN) – The California Public Employment Relations Board ruled Wednesday that parts of a voter-approved measure in Sonoma County expanding law enforcement oversight are void and unenforceable.

Measure P, which Sonoma County voters approved in the November 2020 election, empowered the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach to, among other abilities, independently investigate Sheriff's Office employees and post body-cam footage online.

The measure was one of several around the Bay Area supporting police reform that passed in 2020 and was supported by the Santa Rosa/Sonoma County NAACP.

The Sonoma County Deputy Sheriffs' Association and Sonoma County Law Enforcement Association later challenged the measure under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, a California law requiring public agencies to meet "in good faith" with employee organizations, such as unions, before adopting rules or regulations that affect matters such as dispute resolution and official communications.

The DSA and SCLEA alleged that the county violated the act by failing to meet with them before placing Measure P on the ballot, infringing on the unions' rights.

In its decision, the Public Employment Relations Board agreed in part, finding that certain amendments in the measure warranted meeting with employee organizations beforehand.

"We supported police reform and still do, but the Board of Supervisors rejected the appropriate legal process and squandered an opportunity to accomplish a mutually agreeable set of reforms," DSA President Mike Vail said in a statement.

The decision voids the portions of Measure P that allowed the IOLERO to receive and independently investigate whistleblower complaints without notifying the sheriff's office, review and post body-cam footage, conduct independent investigations in certain circumstances and supervise sheriff's office investigations by accessing records and observing interviews.

But the PERB left other portions of the measure in place, finding that they didn't warrant representation. Those provisions include establishing a community advisory council for the IOLERO and allowing the IOLERO to recommend further investigation or review databases of incident reports and body cam footage.

The county can still appeal the decision in state court.

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