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Letters (February 3, 2021)

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HIRE MORE DEPUTIES

Editor,

The following letter was submitted to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors on January 17, 2021. Meanwhile, the Sheriff pulled his proposal and will resubmit it soon.

If you have concerns, especially about the need to return to community-based deputies, I recommend you send a note to your county supervisor at 501 Low Gap Road, Room 1090, Ukia,h California 95482. Or call 463-4221; fax 463-4245 or e-mail bos@mendocino.org.

You can communicate with Sheriff Matt Kendall's office at 951 Low Gap Road in Ukiah, 95482. Or call 463-4085, fax 463-4517 or e-mail sheriff@mendocinoSheriff.org


Dear Supervisors:

Please consider my comments in support of the Sheriff's request for ten additional deputies. 

For years the Sheriff's office has worked with too few deputies. The last roster increase was a long time ago when we were a different county.

I was present when extensive factual evidence of the problem was given more than once to the prior Board of aupervisors by Sheriff Tom Allman. In addition, recruitment and retention has been hampered by low salaries. The department has the burden of training and then loses new hires to higher-paying departments elsewhere.

The prior board was fully aware of the problem but did not secure the money to correct it. This is a foundational issue that has been left to drift with consequences.

Insufficient numbers of deputies requires overtime for normal operation and more of it in a crisis. This style of operation was forced on the department. It is neither prudent nor economical to run public safety on overtime dollars. Future crises will occur and the costly consequences will continue to mount.

Insufficient deputies doing overtime is a gambling proposition. The Fatigue from long hours has a cost. We need deputies to be alert, not tired, irritable and overworked.

A prime example of unwanted impact:

For years Mendocino County residents enjoyed the protection of community-based deputies. The department was very proud of this forward thinking component. Covelo, the South Coast and Anderson Valley all had resident deputies.

In our experience in Anderson Valley, residents thrived under the protection of their local deputies. The officers were competent, fair handed and very compassionate. Living here they participated in the community activities. They donated many off-duty hours of programs for children and youth as well as local fundraising for charitable needs. They were prompt to respond to a call. Common sense advises us of the positive and preventive value of such programs.

Approximately seven years ago crime, mainly cannabis and drug related, increased. Community officers were diverted to work the greater Ukiah area or beyond.

The insufficient staff problem caused Anderson Valley to lose its valuable community deputy. Pleas from the Anderson Valley Unity Club, the Community Action Coalition and many individuals were answered most apologetically by Sheriff Allman with, "We don't have the money -- they are needed elsewhere." In Anderson Valley we have signs of unraveling. Yet we are relatively fortunate. Pleas from Covelo are heart-rendering. They need help now! Lawlessness seems to be metastasizing.

Community-based policing needs to be reestablished, especially for its preventive, cost-effective nature. That can only happen with more deputies on the force.

Sheriff Kendall has recorded the increasing crime levels. The reality is growing lawlessness. As private citizens many of us are living with it and cowed by fears of retaliation. Few wish to see any slower or more ineffective response times. You drive the roads more than most so you know the time it takes to get from Ukiah to the rest of the County. All citizens deserve a timely and appropriate deputy response.

Vigilante Behavior in Mendocino County:

Anger and fear have grown because of the lack of will or ability to establish needed timely appropriate deputy response. The recent act by vigilantes is a desperate and dangerous consequence of this fear and anger.

The Sheriff was transparent and responsible when he reported this act to the Board. The public also deserved to know and to reflect on its meaning and consequences. No human being deserves such treatment. Any reasonable person would be unnerved by this uncontrolled solution driven by frustration, anger and fear. However, such behavior follows by what has been allowed to occur by not properly funding the Sheriff’s office. Vigilantism is direct, irrefutable evidence of the impact of increased criminal activity and the inability of the Sheriff's office to be promptly respondive to citizen reports or requests.

Fires, earthquakes, storms, floods and landslides are a real part of the Mendocino landscape. In any such crisis someone of authority is quickly required throughout the county. Deputies provide the needed authority for controlled road evacuation so vital to public safety and first responders.

Lastly, you have been given a letter asserting that it "represents the citizens of Mendocino County." It does not. It represents 54 people who also seem verbal and angry. Now we have a spate of “word vigilantism.”

I have a strong feeling that the citizens of Mendocino are so diverse that we cannot join under a common banner and jointly petition you. But you know that a substantial majority wish to live without fear under the rule of law. Without adequate and appropriate enforcement such a wish quickly fades, increasing the varied feelings that lead to vigilante behavior.

The consequence of a depleted police force is real and frightening to some. If you defund anymore you will have no force at all. You cannot have quality health and human services or any quality-of-life if you cannot guarantee safety.

In closing, public policy should be based on established facts, supported by quality assessment of what serves the greatest common good. Public policy should never be based on negative personal attacks or character assassination.

I heartily and respectfully support Sheriff Kendall’s funding request. I have no affiliation with the Sheriff’s department. I am merely a concerned citizen.

Beverly Dutra

Philo

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WHY IT MATTERS

Editor,

Immigrants, asylum seekers and Dreamers like me have endured four years of attacks from the Trump administration. 

Even though I can breathe a sigh of relief with this new administration, the uncertainty of my status remains the same.

This is why President Biden’s proposal to overhaul our nation’s immigration system matters. 

Millions of undocumented immigrants are currently serving as essential workers, and yet have not received any sort of assistance in previous Covid-19 relief packages.

I urge Congress and the Biden administration to finally pass immigration reforms, and am hopeful that they will.

Jose Garcia

San Francisco

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TROUBLE WITH AT&T

To the Editor:

I would like to let your readers know about issues I have been having with trying to practice medicine in rural Northern California in our decades old practice in Redwood Valley.

The most recent issue: ATT has kept us in our state of not having a phone system; going on our third week now. The tech who came today stated that the ‘guys in SF are too lazy to come all the way up here so they called me even though I do not know your system…. it will probably be 4-6 weeks before it is fixed because they sent the wrong part today’. What would the hospital do without a phone for hours, let alone days…or weeks??

They are effectively closing my practice, placing a patient community that is collectively suffering from PTSD from the wildfires and COVID duress under undue stress and leaving me open to liability. This whole world would be running a little smoother if people just did their job….this is insane!

I am wondering if other people out there are also having problems with ATT.

Robert Gitlin, DO, Medical Director, Redwood Valley Health Clinic

Redwood Valley

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THE 19 TRAP

Editor,

Proposition 19 penalizes some fire victims. Proposition 19 (labeled as home protection for seniors, severely disabled, families and victims of wildfires or natural disasters) has a glitch we're really upset about. 

We're victims of the Tubbs wildfire and lost our home of 30 years in 2017. 

We sold our lot in 2018. Under existing law we had five years to repurchase and retain our original tax base (in the same county) or three years (in certain other counties). Proposition 19 changed it to two years (but in any county, yahoo). 

As we haven't purchased a home, as of April 1, we lose our tax base option. 

Wait, wasn't it supposed to help us? 

We were so excited when the law passed so we could relocate in any county. Now it feels like just another frustrating limitation to restarting life. It doesn't make sense. This could affect Paradise fire victims as well. 

Our complaints have been met with, "Sorry, the law is passed, nothing can be done. We'll pass along your story." 

Liesl Ramsay

Santa Rosa

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OUR COVID FIASCO

To the Editor:

What a fiasco. On January 12, we called our health department for info on getting a covid shot. We were told that Wednesday, January 13 we could go to Carl Purdy Hall from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. for people over 75.

We arrived before 7 a.m. No one there. Other people were told 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. We got in line, in a light rain. Soon health people plus two security people came. At 11:15 our line started to move but there was another line - first responders. They had appointments at 9, 10, 11 a.m. etc. We found out later, Thursday, that’s only the ones the clinic was for. By 2 p.m. we had our shots and headed home.

So disorganized and the health department gave out wrong information. They also said we could go to our own health provider, the hospital or a clinic. Some people called them. None of them had the shots and wondered where our info was coming from.

It took us 7 hours. Why? Very disorganized and confusing for many. Shame on our health department. Also, no bathrooms were open.

Pam Galletti

Ukiah

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INDIA SHOWS THE WAY

Editor: 

Per a recent report in The Press Democrat, India, a former British colony once notorious for poverty, famine, starvation, stench, disease, bizarre religious traditions and the black hole of Calcutta, is sending its extra COVID-19 vaccine supplies abroad to less advanced nations as a gesture of good will. 

Critically short of vaccine and confronting our own mounting death toll, perhaps Sonoma County could send a delegation to New Dehli bearing gifts of wine in hopes of scoring a few desperately needed doses to replace the supply our own government has apparently misplaced somewhere in the warren of warehouses that store our space ships, nuclear missiles, tanks, aircraft carriers and other really important things needed to protect our freedoms. 

If India runs short of vaccine before our delegation arrives, the Pakistanis might share some of theirs now that we’re no longer bombing them (as far as anyone knows). 

Bob Edwards

Sonoma

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COMPTCHE SENIORS SCORE BIG!

Editor,

The seniors of the village of Comptche would like to express their delight and thanks to the Mendo Lake Food Hub, North Coast Opportunities, County of Mendocino and FEMA for the half year of COVID Relief Vegetable Boxes and the culinary delight they provided over six months.

First-a big round of applause for the organizations in Ukiah who made contact with Comptche volunteers who picked up boxes in Ukiah and brought them to Comptche, and those who opened the Comptche Community Organization Hall once a week for two hours to pass out the boxes to seniors. Sara O’Donnell did the pick up and delivery with the help of James Sibbett & Carole Freeman and Lynne Mowry saw to their distribution to 14 families.

Comptche seniors have been sticking close to home. For most of us a trip to the Comptche Store and post office is the social interaction of the day. Many of us are up dirt roads far from neighbors and only see family. Tuesdays became special. That’s the day we could go to the Hall and meet our friends and neighbors, catch up on community news, and get our veggie boxes.

After a few weeks Mowry became very skilled and accommodating at swapping ingredients as someone asked “Is there extra cilantro?”and someone else offered “Anyone want my potatoes?”and a senior held up a veggie asking “What do I do with THAT?”

Many recipients looked up information on root cellaring and pantry long term storage. Enough potatoes, onions, garlic and squash arrived to save for months into the future. Other families, like mine, are maintaining three generation household family units and we were able to share veggie box ingredients within our family.

Each week opening the veggie boxes became an exciting surprise. What was awaiting us? If memory serves”we found potatoes, onion, garlic, carrots, beets, summer & winter squash, radishes, fresh herbs, tomatoes, apples, lettuce, lemons, wheat grain and flour, dried beans, tortillas, chili & green peppers, okra, melon, kale, eggplant, mushrooms, olive oil and more.

And the quality of the produce was exceptional with local farms all over the county providing produce. Seniors know what some of this stuff costs in retail grocery stores and we were getting it free every week. THANK YOU to all the producers from the seniors of Comptche.

Here are some of the excerpts of comments gathered from the Comptche folks. “This has been like Xmas all summer long, especially appreciated was the basil”a lovely box of nutrition.” Others said “Please relay kudos to the local farmers, they did a beautiful job”a very beneficial program”we were delighted with the mushrooms last time.” “Picking up my box on Tuesday put some real structure into an otherwise very unstructured time.”

Hostess Lynne Mowry was always checking that seniors were OK and locals said she held the space with “loving intention.” She provided a safe distanced outdoor space to share a few words with friends and neighbors and was blessed by many seniors for her cheerful face, generous soul, and dedication over the months.

Recipe exchanges for a really good Delicata Squash Soup or Red Beet Soup took place on Tuesdays and people brought goodies they’d made from last weeks veggie box to surprise the volunteers. An inspired senior said “Cooking is a pleasure with such high quality ingredients and it’s fun to share food because we received so much.” I perfected my Black Bean & Sweet Potato Burrito recipe with veggie box contents.

“The program was amazing and fit the bill perfectly,” a senior said. Comptche residents hope we will never again face a pandemic, but if it were to happen we’d all sign up with the FEMA/North Coast Opportunities,/County of Mendocino/Mendo Lake Food Hub again.

P.S. Since Comptche seniors can’t get excited about veggie box arrivals anymore something new has taken there place”a huge pink bakery box of apple fritters delivered to the Comptche store fresh every Wednesday”not quite as healthy, and not free, but still exciting”

Katy Tahja

Comptche

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POLICE REVIEW BOARD?

To the Editor:

I suspect the recent misconduct violations of former UPD Sergeant Kevin Murray is only the tip of the iceberg.

From all accounts, Murray wasn't just a sex offender. He was a meth addict. He was arrested with meth in his possession. 

So how did Murray's problems escape notice at the Ukiah Police Department? Hmm. I wonder. 

And how, for heaven's sake, did Murray get promoted to sergeant? Hmm. I wonder about that, too.

I am also aware that there is al least one other officer at the UPD who has a case pending that also involves horrific conduct. It involves domestic battery in front of his children.

There's more bad news about bad cops. Much more.

There is the March 20 incident this year involving a Mendocino County sheriff’s deputy overdosing on narcotics at his home in Fort Bragg. He needed life-saving intervention by EMS personnel, including NARCAN. He was transported to a local hospital. 

Illegal narcotics and paraphernalia were later found at his home by investigators. 

There's more.

Another case, in 2017, involved Mendocino County correctional sergeant, Zohar Zaied, using a taser on a handcuffed, mentally-ill jail inmate, who witnesses said was not a threat. The tasing caused the man to stop breathing and go into cardiac arrest.

And get this!

Zaied wasn't fired from his job and wasn’t charged with a crime, according to records released under the state’s law-enforcement transparency law.

Instead, Zaied cut a deal with the Sheriff’s Office to accept a demotion to correctional deputy, documents show. The inmate, Travis Benevich, whose lawyer said almost died in the attack, accepted a settlement of $180,000 from the county instead of suing.

There's more.

In 2014, Steven Neuroth, 55, of Ukiah died after his June 11 arrest when he was held facedown on the ground and suffocated by four corrections deputies with his hands handcuffed and ankles shackled in a "safety cell" at the Mendocino County Jail. The duty sergeant and a nurse watched and did nothing.

Minutes before Neuroth's death, the arresting officer from the Willits Police Department, Kevin Leef, is shown in a jail video joking with a nurse in the jail's sally port about Neuroth -- described by his family’s lawyer as a schizophrenic in psychiatric crisis -- laughing about Neuroth's fear of snakes. 

“Walk up there and say ‘Ah, snakes!’ Funniest thing you’ve ever seen,” said Officer Leef, who is now a sergeant.

Corrections deputy Frank Masterson is heard replying, "One and done."

It was expensive mistake all the way around.

To settle the case, Mendocino County and its insurer paid $3 million to the Neuroth family. The California Forensic Medical Group, the private contractor that provided medical services at the county jail at that time, paid $1.5 million. And the City of Willits paid $500,000.

And, of course, James Neuroth died a terrible death.

Bottom line?

There are good cops. And there a bad cops. And there is management -- police chiefs and sheriffs.

Chiefs and sheriffs are politicians. They are politically astute about their own careers. And they are astute about budget appropriations and how public relations affect their budgets.

Moreover, they can manufacture evidence or make evidence disappear. They can cover up.

Bottom line: Cops can't be trusted to police their own. To say Mendocino County has a reciprocal deal with Sonoma County to investigate police misconduct simply isn't good enough.

Which is why Mendocino County needs a Civilian Review Board comprised of appointed civilians to investigate police misconduct independently of outside influence.

When I was with the MCSO twenty years ago, there was a zero tolerance policy for both professional and personal misconduct. On duty or off duty, you were always a cop. On duty or off duty, you always represented your department. And you were always held to the highest standards. I remember getting written up for a coffee stain on my shirt.

So what happened over the last twenty years?

Therefore, I'll make the following recommendations:

That the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors create the "Mendocino County Law Enforcement Citizen Review Board" which shall have the authority to exercise its duties and responsibilities as outlined in a "Citizen Oversight Model", with regard to county and municipal law enforcement and police activities or personnel operating in Mendocino County.

Members of the Review Board will work to increase the public’s confidence in policing services by:

Reviewing, recommending and monitoring the implementation of changes to police policies, procedures & practices

Receiving citizen allegations of on-duty police misconduct

Advising Board of Supervisors, County CEO, Independent Police Auditors, and Sheriff and Police Chiefs

Participating in recommending appropriate disciplinary action

Meeting periodically with representatives of the Deputy Sheriff and Police Associations

Participating in community outreach

CONTACTING THE REVIEW BOARD

The best way for the public to contact the Review Board will be to come to a monthly meeting; information about these meetings will be posted per the Brown Act. The public will also be able to contact the Review Board through the Review Board's own ombudsman.

FILING A COMPLAINT OR A COMMENDATION

If a member of the public has a complaint against a member of local law enforcement, or would like to make a commendation, he or she may use BPD Forms on the Review Board's website to submit it. Forms will be in English and Spanish.

MEETING THE MEMBERS OF THE REVIEW BOARD

The members of the Review Board will have posted office hours.

Respectfully submitted,

John Sakowicz, Ukiah

MCSO, 2000-2004, badge # 2526


ED NOTE: Given the paltry number of incidents listed here, incidents reported by the police themselves, and the deputy described therein himself the vic of his own overdose, plus at least two other cases being debateable, the only possible conclusion a reasonable person must draw is that Mendo law enforcement is doing an outstanding job. Anyway, three of our police departments are already supervised by the city councils of the cities they serve, and the Sheriff's Department doesn't seem to me to need another level of supervision beyond the county supervisors, especially oversight by the kind of axe grinders likely to volunteer for any kind of oversight body. Additionally, Sako old boy, you might include the information that probably inspired this letter — your apparently unhappy tenure as a corrections officer in the County Jail, a position you vacated to register a claim against the County for “sexual harassment.” And the county, always quick to pay out a quick five grand rather than contest bogus claims, paid off! Big guy like you? Sexually harassed? Were there blind pervs in the jail? Specifics, please. You seem to have a great big axe to grind with Mendo's forces of law and order. Easy boy, easy big champion.

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