A push to establish civilian oversight of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office received an official vote of support from the North Fair Oaks Community Council.
Members of the local grassroots organization, Fixin’ San Mateo County, gave a presentation to the council during Thursday’s meeting and asked them to send a letter of support for the group to the Board of Supervisors.
The council voted unanimously to pass a resolution to send the letter endorsing Fixin’ SMC and which would ask the board to consider establishing a county civilian oversight board and an inspector general with subpoena power to address complaints, investigate issues and make policy suggestions.
“I strongly believe that this is very needed in such communities like ours. We are growing communities; we have a lot of people that have been oppressed, people that fear the sheriff,” said Council member Jennifer Ruiz. “Civilian oversight, I think, is a great way to connect and build a stronger community without fear and without oppression.”
During Fixin’ SMC's presentation, Outreach Workgroup Lead Trina Patton emphasized the need for greater accountability and more effective community policing practices.
“This is not an idea to be a thorn in the side of law enforcement, it’s actually an idea to support law enforcement and the communities that they serve,” Patton said.
Fixin’ SMC's Board Chair Jim Lawrence told the Pulse that he hoped an endorsement from the NFOCC would show the board that there is widespread support for their proposal, particularly among neighborhoods like North Fair Oaks with more diverse and underrepresented communities.
Council President Brooks Esser said he was interested to hear the perspective of Fixin’ SMC and his fellow council members on what kind of oversight would be most effective in the county.
Different jurisdictions have explored implementing their versions of law enforcement oversight throughout the Bay Area. While San Francisco approved Proposition D in 2020 to create an inspector general’s office and oversight board, he said that supervisors in Contra Costa County declined to create an oversight board but will require quarterly reports about the sheriff’s office’s activities.
Fixin’ SMC has also arranged meetings with the city councils of San Mateo, San Carlos and Millbrae and will be presenting to the county Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission on Tuesday to make similar calls for support.
As they gather endorsements, Fixin’ SMC's members are continuing to work with Sheriff-Elect Christina Corpus to build the groundwork for future action.
“We are in the midst of an ongoing meeting with the elected sheriff to ensure our draft proposal for the oversight board and inspector general’s office has her full support,” Lawrence said. “Last by not least, Board President [Don] Horsely has committed to agendize our request at the September board meeting and form a board of supervisors study group.”
Their goal, he added, is “to have this proposal reviewed and approved by all such that in the first board of supervisors meeting in January of 2023, the board can officially install an oversight board and [inspector general] office for the county of San Mateo.”