ACLU of Sonoma County Newsletter Summer 2014

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Click here to view PDF of ACLU Sonoma County Newsletter Summer 2014

ACLU Sonoma County Position on Civilian Review Board

1. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, as overseen by the Board of Supervisors, needs to take a new approach to “community policing” — one in which the community feels respected and protected by law enforcement, not harassed and threatened.

2. There should be a thorough reassessment of the use of deadly force by law enforcement agencies across Sonoma County, focusing on policies, training of officers and evaluation of their conduct. While officer safety is important, the emphasis should be on protecting the public.

3. There should be an immediate independent review of all the facts in the fatal shooting of Andy Lopez on Oct. 22, as well as full public disclosure of results of all investigations.

4. We call on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to return to Sonoma County to investigate police killings since 1998.

5. We support establishment of a countywide Civilian Review Board, with provisions stated below.

6. We call for installation of body cams and patrol car cameras for all police agencies in Sonoma County, with the necessary privacy provisions.

7. We support conversion of the open space at Moorland and West Robles avenues into the Andy Lopez Memorial Park.


1. INDEPENDENCE: The power to conduct hearings, subpoena witnesses who testify under oath and report findings and recommendations to the public.

2. INVESTIGATORY POWER: The authority to independently investigate incidents and issue findings on complaints.

3. MANDATORY POLICE COOPERATION: Complete access to police witnesses and documents through legal mandate or subpoena power.

4. ADEQUATE FUNDING: Should not be a lower budget priority than police internal affairs.

5. HEARINGS: Essential for solving credibility questions and enhancing public confidence in process.

6. REFLECT COMMUNITY DIVERSITY: Board & staff should be broadly representative of the community it serves.

7. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS: Citizen oversight can spot problem policies and provide a forum for developing reform.

8. STATISTICAL ANALYSIS: Public statistical reports can detail trends in allegations, and early warning systems can identify officers who are subjects of unusually numerous complaints.

9. SEPARATE OFFICES: Should be housed away from police headquarters to maintain independence and credibility with public.

10. DISCIPLINARY ROLE: Board findings should be considered in determining appropriate disciplinary action.

11. ADEQUATE TRAINING AND EXPERTISE: To ensure that Board members are knowledgeable about proper police practices, conduct meaningful investigations and can make informed recommendations

Statement Regarding Shooting of Andy Lopez

On Oct. 24, Marty McReynolds, chair of ACLU of Sonoma County, issued the following statement on behalf of the Chapter Board of Directors:

The fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy in Southwest Santa Rosa Oct. 22 is a tragedy that underlines the need for an independent civilian review board with subpoena powers to investigate police conduct and report to the public.

This was strongly recommended by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 2000 following its investigation of fatal incidents involving police in Sonoma County.

Only such an independent investigation can supply the facts needed for corrective recommendations and give the public confidence in the actions of the agents pledged to protect our community.

Letter to the Editor of Press Democrat by ACLU Member Steve Fabian

To the Editor,

Once again we are confronted with the anguish of seeing another person killed by law enforcement. Once again we are asking why, after all of the investigations conducted by law enforcement agencies after each death, do they keep happening?

The problem is that the investigations being conducted are asking the wrong questions. Law enforcement and the District Attorney conduct “criminal investigations,” which focus on whether the officer involved should be charged in court with a crime, instead of looking at the questions the community want answered: Was the officer properly trained? Is law enforcement using the most effective procedures to ensure that deadly force is only used when necessary? Did the officer follow correct procedures? Should the officer involved be disciplined? What can be done to prevent these killings from reoccurring in the future?

These questions are not answered when law enforcement and the District Attorney only look to see if there is enough evidence to convince a jury that the officer is guilty of a crime.

These important questions have only been independently examined once, and that was when the U.S. Civil Rights Commission held hearings in 2000 after numerous deaths by law enforcement in our county. The Commission recommended that independent civilian review boards be established with the power to issue subpoenas and take testimony under oath. That recommendation has been ignored by the cities and county and fought by law enforcement. The result is that the deaths keep mounting. It is time to follow the sage advice of the Commission and establish civilian review boards. Our community cannot afford to wait as more lives are taken.

Steven Fabian

ACLU Member

Sonoma Superior Court Rescinds Expressive Activity Order

Many Sonoma County residents were surprised when the Press Democrat reported last month that Presiding Judge Rene Chouteau had issued an order restricting protests and other activities around the County Courthouse, and establishing fines and possible jail time for violations of courtroom decorum.
The order seemed to raise a number of issues that cried out for comment by the Sonoma County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU attorneys here and in the San Francisco ACLU office studied the matter carefully and wrote a comprehensive letter to the presiding judge pointing out our objections and citing judicial precedents. Text of the ACLU’s September 6, 2013, letter to the court is available to read here.
Judge Chouteau’s response was prompt and cordial. He invited us to meet with him at the Courthouse and a group of us did so, on Friday, Sept. 13. Representing the ACLU were Linda Lye, staff attorney of the ACLU of Northern California; and Nancy Palandati, a Guerneville attorney and member of the board of directors of the Sonoma County Chapter; along with Chapter Board Member Peter Kuykendall, a Santa Rosa attorney; and Marty McReynolds, Chapter Chair.
Judge Gary Medvigy and Court Executive Officer Jose Octavio Guillen joined Judge Chouteau in explaining the reasons for the order and describing the months-long process of composing it. They complimented the ACLU for the thoughtful nature of our response. They then led our group on a tour of the Courthouse grounds and pointed out their concerns about the need to protect juries from harassment or undue influence, and the desire to maintain a dignified and neutral environment within courtrooms to permit the application of fair and impartial justice.
We in turn pointed out that existing regulations covered most of the judges’ concerns. The order issued last month prohibited protesting, picketing, preaching and passing out fliers within a 25-foot perimeter of the Courthouse and established fines of up to $1,500 and possible jail time for violation of a set of rules on the clothing and appearance of anyone attending court sessions.
We are delighted that Judge Chouteau has rescinded the order. We had been far from alone in protesting it. The ACLU joined other groups and individuals in the county – including the Press Democrat — who spoke out in behalf of freedom of expression, the right to protest and access to the courts without fear of sanctions.

General Order Regarding Expressive Activity

ACLU Letter to Superior Court Regarding Expressive Activity Order

Letter from Court Rescinding Expressive Activity Order

Press Democrat Close to Home: Celebrating county court’s reversal on protest ban


Treasurer Needed

Once again, the Chapter urgently needs a Treasurer. Dick Van Aggelen is leaving the post after serving faithfully for over a year.
Treasurer’s Duties
The Treasurer is the main contact with the bank — orders checks, resolves banking problems and works with the bank to maintain a current list of Board Members authorized to provide second signatures on checks.
The Treasurer also:
– Attends monthly board meetings.
– Provides monthly reports to the Board — written, oral or both
– Brings the checkbook to board meetings in order to reimburse board members’ expenses, obtain second signatures on checks or pay invoices.
– Maintains and files accounting records.
– Supports the annual dinner project — captures attendees’ information and deposits. This information is composed of the number of reservations, the dollar amount and the number reservations at each price point. Program ads, sponsorships and other related items are also part of the dinner accounting process. Frequent meetings of the dinner committee are required.
– Frequent visits to the Post Office during the dinner planning process.
– Other tasks may be required when unplanned events occur.
Call us (707-765-5005) or email us (aclu@sonic.net) if you are interested.

The Summer 2013 Sonoma Civil Liberties is out!

Read it


Trevor Timm, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), delivered a strong warning about drones — the kind that kill and the kind that violate our privacy — at the Chapter’s 2013 Awards Celebration and Annual Dinner May 17 at the Friedman Events Center in Santa Rosa.
But he also sounded a hopeful note about efforts to pass laws to control them.
“A lot of times we’re fighting uphill battles, especially when it comes to surveillance technology in the last decade,” Timm said. “But this is actually a battle that we’re winning and we can continue winning if we keep on fighting.”
Airplane-sized Predator drones have been used by the U.S. government to kill more than 4,000 people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere in the past decade, many of them civilians not even suspected of being terrorists, he said, in a program shrouded in secrecy.
Meanwhile, hovering devices of all shapes and sizes are being developed to carry out surveillance here at home, he said, in line with the title of his keynote speech, “Drones Over Wine Country? Surveillance Drones and Your Privacy.”
A drone the size of a hummingbird is being developed for the Pentagon – it’s called the Hummingbird and looks like one – and scientists at Harvard are working on drones the size of insects.
Police and sheriff’s departments around the country are eager to get somewhat larger drones about three or four feet long with “really sophisticated high-definition cameras that can basically see your shoelaces from a mile away,” he said. He said they can be equipped with heat or infrared sensors that can see through walls, with facial-recognition technology and cell-phone interception technology.
“They can suck up potentially your text messages and phone calls and lock onto the GPS of your cell phone and essentially follow you around,” he said.
Timm said the Federal Aviation Administration estimates there will be 30,000 drones in the sky by the end of the decade – more than one for each of the 19,000 towns in the United States – and more than 100 agencies have already applied for and received drone licenses. But there is a backlash.
“This has become an amazing political issue around the country,” Timm said.  “It’s galvanized the public, both the left and the right.”
He cited cases in Seattle and in Alameda County where action by the ACLU and EFF forced law enforcement agencies to back off on their stealthy plans to use drones for surveillance of the population.
Timm noted that legislation has been introduced in many states to protect citizens’ privacy against the use of drones, including requiring law enforcement to obtain warrants for their use and to delete any information gleaned after review, instead of storing it for perpetual sharing with unknown entities around the nation and world.
He urged ACLU members to contact national and state legislators and push for effective legislation to cope with the new technology and put up barriers to protect our privacy.
Watch the video of his speech


Award presented at the Sonoma Chapter’s Awards Celebration and Annual Dinner.

Activist and author Mei T. Nakano has chronicled the lives of generations of Japanese Americans in books and articles. Incarcerated at the age of 17 in concentration camps in California and Colorado, she later returned to school to earn a master’s degree. She fought racism and sexism and led the successful campaign to create Sonoma County’s Human Rights Commission, where she served as its first chairperson.
Mei T. Nakano’s long struggle on behalf of civil liberties and human rights was recognized at the Chapter’s Annual Dinner with the 2013 Jack Green Civil Liberties Award.
During her acceptance speech, Nakano touched the button on her chest with the message “ACLU Card-Carrying Member.”
At one time, “It really was not politically correct to be linked to the ACLU,” she said, “so we wore these buttons” in a show of quiet defiance.
A brief video described her early life as a child of Japanese immigrant farmers whose path to success in America was rudely interrupted when she and the rest of her family were sent to a grim “relocation center” by the U.S. government at the start of World War II. She bounced back after the war to become a leader of the Japanese-American community in its fight for equal opportunity, author of several books and a founder of Sonoma County’s Commission on Human Rights.
Arthur Warmoth of the Commission on Human Rights presented Nakano with a certificate recognizing her contributions. Other recognition came from California Reps. Mike Thompson and Jared Huffman, State Sen. Noreen Evans and Assemblymembers Wesley Chesbro and  Marc Levine.
In her acceptance speech, Nakano paid tribute to the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), “with goals close to those of the ACLU,” gave thanks to the Sonoma County Peace and Justice Center and wound up by “thanking you all – and thanking you for making this world a better place to be.”
Watch the video presentation of the Jack Green Civil Liberties Award to Mei T. Nakano:
Read more about Mei T. Nakano

Poster - Website


    Over 130 people came to the Friedman Event Center May 17th to honor Mei T. Nakano, mingled over fine wine, enjoyed a delicious meal and music by Happy Accident and listened to a fascinating presentation by Trevor Timm of Electronic Frontier Foundation.
View Photos from the Awards Celebration and Annual Dinner
Watch the video of the Awards Celebration and Annual Dinner



Sonoma County’s schools have some of the highest rates of expulsions and suspensions in California.  Each of these acts deprives a student of learning time and puts the student on a path that can lead to dropping out, getting in trouble and winding up in the prison system.  It also deprives the school of money from the state’s Average Daily Attendance funds.
There is a better way to handle school discipline and your chapter’s Education Committee is exploring it with other civil rights and community groups.  Committee members Jackie Leonard, Marty McReynolds, Nancy Palandati and Judith Volkart have traveled to Marin County to observe Youth Court in action – managed by the Marin YMCA with strong support from the Marin Chapter of ACLU.
They saw students acting as jurors, advocates and bailiff, with a volunteer adult acting as judge in a procedure that works out penalties while keeping the student out of the criminal justice system and in school.
The Youth Court is only one of the ways to involve students in their own discipline in a supportive, non-punitive approach.
Join us in working to end harmful applications of school discipline in Sonoma County.    Phone us at (707) 765-5005 or email aclu@sonic.net


Read our Sonoma Civil Liberties newsletters

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2012-2013 The Year in Review

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With members of the Occupy Santa Rosa Band leading the way, your chapter obtained assurances from the City of Santa Rosa that police will not interfere with music played in the streets as part of a free-speech protest.
After Santa Rosa City Police warned members of the band that they were violating a city ordinance requiring a permit to perform, Occupy came to the ACLU of Sonoma County.  Santa Rosa police officers not only threatened band members with criminal prosecution, they threatened to confiscate the band members’ instruments.
Chapter Board Members Marty McReynolds, Evan Livingstone and Judith Volkart, along with Occupy Band musicians Jean Redus and Miles Atchison, met with City Attorney Caroline Fowler October 16th. They requested the meeting because the board members stressed to the City Attorney that the music was part of a constitutionally protected protest and that the musicians were not violating the ordinance’s requirements.
City Attorney Fowler agreed that police should be instructed not to interfere with the band’s performances, which have been a key part of Occupy protests in Santa Rosa and elsewhere.
On November 29, she confirmed this position in a letter to the Chapter in which she said she had advised the Santa Rosa Police Department “and they have confirmed that officers have been advised that there is no requirement for persons performing music that are not soliciting donations or placing structures in the public right of way to have a street performers permit.”
Let the music play…


On November 15, 2012, Sonoma State University dedicated a free speech Speaker’s Corner to honor Mario Savio. Savio helped lead the Free Speech Movement at University of California Berkeley in 1964, when police arrested a member of Congress of Racial Equality for “tabling.”
Speaking to protestors on the steps of Sproul Hall Savio stated, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
The Sonoma Chapter worked closely with Savio upon his moving to Sonoma County in 1990 to teach at SSU, and helped fund the memorial.


Californians Closely Divided on Maintaining Largest and Costliest Death Row in U.S.
Sonoma Chapter active in support of measure.

   By a small margin California voters chose to keep in place the nation’s largest and costliest death row rather than replace it with a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. Votes for Proposition 34 were at 47% with 53% against — just 500,000 votes determined the final outcome.
The Sonoma Chapter was very active in circulating petitions to get 34 on the ballot and then handed out thousands of leaflets at farmers markets and other locations in Sonoma County.  “The vast majority of people I talked to about 34 walked away saying they were going to vote for the measure, even if initially they were for the death penalty” noted chapter board member Steve Fabian.  “Once the savings and other provisions of the Proposition were explained to them, opinions against often changed to support.”  Board member Imam Ali Sadiqui participated in a forum discussing the measure.
Proposition 34 ultimately passed in Sonoma County 56.5% yes, 43.5% no.
   “The mere fact that the state is evenly divided is nothing short of extraordinary. In 1978, 71% of the electorate supported the Briggs Death Penalty Initiative and now, after hearing the facts, voters are almost evenly split,” said Jeanne Woodford, the official proponent of the SAFE California Campaign and former Warden at San Quentin State Prison where she oversaw four executions. “This is a dramatic shift in public opinion. Millions of Californians now prefer the sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole to a wasteful and risky death penalty that has no benefit.”
   California’s independent Legislative Analyst’s Office determined that Proposition 34 would have saved the state $130 million a year. A separate study by Federal Judge Arthur Alarcón and Loyola Law Professor Paula Mitchell estimated that California had spent $4 billion since 1978 on the death penalty and that the state will spend $5 to $7 billion more on the death penalty in the next 35 years.
“While we are disappointed by this narrow loss, the conversation on the death penalty in California has changed forever. For the first time ever, millions of voters know that the death penalty is exorbitantly costly, and that it costs far more than a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole,” said Woodford.
California has the largest and costliest death row in the United States. If Proposition 34 had passed, the death sentences of California’s 726 death row inmates would have been converted to a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. Convicted killers would also have been required to work and pay restitution into a victims’ compensation fund–right now, less than 1% of death row inmates work. They would have also lost special treatment which includes extra visiting hours, exercise time and private cells. With the defeat of Proposition 34, death row inmates will continue to be housed one per cell and will continue to get taxpayer-funded legal teams for life.
The initiative also would have established the “SAFE California Fund” to tackle the 46% of murders and 56% of reported rapes go unsolved every year in California.


ACLU of Sonoma County’s
2012 Awards Celebration & Annual Dinner


Supporters of the Sonoma Chapter filled the Friedman Event Center to hear Jeanne Woodford and honor David Grabill.      Read more…

JEANNE WOODFORD – Keynote Speaker

DAVID GRABILL – 2012 Jack Green Civil Liberties Award Honoree


Occupy Santa Rosa CA
Occupy Santa Rosa led to the founding of Occupy camps throughout Sonoma County. Threatened with arrests, the ACLU was there.

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