Friday, June 20, 2014

"A Dozen Surviving Family Members of Police-Related Deaths, Local Attorneys, Religious Leaders & Community Organizations Call for DOJ Intervention in Sonoma County"

Justice for Andy Lopez Cruz! (d. 2013-10-22; Santa Rosa) [link]
press release from "Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez":
Sonoma County is racing toward the ignominious distinction as a major rural rival of urban centers such as Chicago and New York as one of the most likely locales in the U.S. for residents to die in police related incidents. Once known as a bucolic wine-producing region, with abundant tasting rooms and lush, green,scenic vineyards, the County continues to be rocked by almost one police-related death per month since the killing of Andy Lopez on October 22, 2013 the total number of deaths to date suffered in police related incidents since 2000 has already reached 61 and the trend continues unabated, reaching epidemic proportions.
After a spate of civilian deaths in police related incidents in the 1990’s, the U.S. DOJ Civil Rights Division convened hearings in Sonoma County to ascertain the full extent of the crisis. The Commission’s Report, issued in May of 2000 after extensive investigation, concluded, “The Advisory Committee [of the DOJ] is appalled at the number of deadly incidents, justified or not, that have occurred within 25 months. The Advisory Committee agrees … that the number of events should be cause for alarm for all citizens of the county.”
The Advisory Committee issued 26 Recommendations for future implementation by the County and city jurisdictions, such as Santa Rosa, to address the vastly disproportionate number of police related deaths in Sonoma County, writing, “At a minimum, the departments must adopt policies and train officers to have the attitude that deadly force (emphasis added) is the option of last resort.” According to Mary Moore, one of the “community spokespersons” who brought the US Civil Rights Commission to Sonoma County in 1998, “The use of deadly force and excessive military tactics by law enforcement has unfortunately continued in an unabated pattern leading to 61 police related deaths since the issuing of the Commission Report. At best, a few minor cosmetic changes resulted from the 26 Recommendations proposed by the Commission in 2000.”
Fourteen years after the Commission visited Sonoma County, area residents, 12 surviving members of victims’ families, representatives of faith-based organizations, community organizations such as the NAACP and local area attorneys are demanding that the DOJ and U.S. Attorneys return to again investigate the abject failure of law enforcement to reduce the epidemic of the criminal overuse of deadlyforce and ramped up military-type confrontations.
According to Jonathan Melrod, the Sebastopol attorney and organizer for the Ad Hoc Committee sponsoring the outreach to the Federal Government, “This time we want the DOJ and the U.S. Attorneys to return to Sonoma County with full investigatory powers, including the power to subpoena, and at the conclusion of the investigation we are looking for an Albuquerque-type Consent Decree to force law enforcement to pull back from it criminal behavior and cease the war on Sonoma County civilians.”
At the press conference, attorneys from Adams Fietz and members of the Ad Hoc Committee will articulate the basis for the complaint to the Federal Government and WHY we are appealing to the Department of Justice for a much needed "outside" eye.

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