Tag Archives: solano county sheriff

Benicia Black Lives Matter – CALL TO ACTION!

Do you believe Black lives matter? Then answer this call to action

By email, October 29, 2021

Benicia Black Lives Matter (BBLM) is a values-driven, grassroots, volunteer organization that is dedicated to affirming and improving Black lives in Benicia and beyond. Designing and monitoring accountability structures within local government and institutions—including law enforcement—is an essential part of achieving this mission.

Incidents demonstrating a sustained pattern of racial bias, excessive force, and misconduct within the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, along with Sheriff Tom Ferrara’s open unwillingness to observe accountability and transparency norms, are too numerous to recount here. These allegations of excessive, often racialized violence as well as documented support among his staff for anti-government and white supremacist ideologies, together with the sheriff’s refusal to discipline his staff for misconduct even when recommended by neutral investigatory bodies such Internal Affairs, should concern every Solano County citizen.

When it became clear that the sheriff was not meeting the requirements of his position, BBLM initiated a cross-organizational call to action spanning multiple municipalities, collecting volunteers and allies across many diverse groups and organizations. This coalition now requests help from this same community—your help—at the upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting, to voice our shared concerns and call for change.

This Tuesday, November 2, at 9 am, the Solano County Board of Supervisors will meet to consider utilizing Assembly Bill 1185 to create a community-based civilian oversight board for the sheriff’s office. Such a board would provide a communication channel between the Board of Supervisors and the sheriff’s office, allowing the supervisors to respond to non-criminal complaints from their constituents when the sheriff’s office is involved; create a process to file complaints independent of the sheriff’s office when public trust has eroded; give our community the reassurance that review processes are thorough and bad actors are held accountable for misconduct; strengthen the sheriff and his staff’s relationships with the community they are in service to; and improve trust in law enforcement in Solano County in general.

Anyone can attend the board meeting in person or via Zoom; the details to attend are available on the Solano County website (solanocounty.com). You may also submit written comments to clerk@solanocounty.com.

BBLM strongly encourages anyone who has ever considered themselves to be an ally, supporter, or accomplice in the march toward equity for all in this city, this county, and this country to take this opportunity to be heard. Solano citizens cannot have confidence in Sheriff Ferrara’s leadership and authority until there is an open, fair discussion about the value a community-based oversight board could create when confidence in Sheriff Ferrara and the sheriff’s office is at an all-time low. We all deserve more.

At the meeting, or in your email, ask supervisors to authorize county staff to move forward with research and evaluation of an oversight board, or to allow Solano voters to weigh in.

This is your chance to be heard, and to be a part of making change happen here in Solano County, in support of Black lives, and in support of the community and the spaces we share together. Please act.


Benicia Black Lives Matter, BBLM

Finally! Solano County Supervisors schedule discussion on Sheriff oversight board

Solano supervisors to discuss possible new oversight of sheriff’s office

JohnGlidden.com, by Scott Morris, Aug. 30, 2021
Solano County Sheriff Tom Ferrara

VALLEJO – The Solano County Board of Supervisors will have a discussion in September or October about possibly instituting a new oversight board of the Solano County Sheriff’s Office.

Such a board would be authorized under new state legislation passed last year that allows the supervisors to create an oversight board with subpoena power. Members of Benicia Black Lives Matter pushed for oversight following revelations that members of the sheriff’s office posted symbols associated with the Three Percenter anti-government group on social media.

Only Supervisor Monica Brown of Benicia supported even discussing an oversight board in previous meetings, but to add an item to the agenda requires two supervisors’ support. On Tuesday, Brown made a motion to agendize the discussion again and Supervisor Erin Hannigan supported it. Brown said there could be a meeting on the issue on Sept. 28 or Oct. 5.

Hannigan did not respond to questions about why she changed her mind about the discussion. But a new federal civil rights lawsuit filed in August alleged that sheriff’s deputies beat a Black woman unconscious for no reason during an encounter over mismatched license plates and then lied about it in reports. The sheriff’s office contends that the woman struck a deputy in the face, but body camera video doesn’t corroborate that statement.

“We’re happy, but why did it take a Black woman getting beaten unconscious for the board to take our request seriously enough to put the item on the agenda?” said Benicia Black Lives Matter co-founder Nimat Grantham. “Erin was the first person who I would expect to second that motion and she never did until now.”

Following revelations in February that members of the sheriff’s office had posted Three Percenter symbols on social media, members of Benicia Black Lives Matter wrote letters to the sheriff demanding an investigation and requested that the county’s civil grand jury take up the issue. Sheriff Tom Ferrara responded by saying that the FBI had cleared his deputies of any extremist affiliations, which the FBI disputed.

Then in April, members of Benicia Black Lives Matter called in to a Board of Supervisors meeting asking for the supervisors to institute new oversight of the sheriff’s office under AB 1185. But when Brown moved to add the discussion to the agenda in a future meeting, none of the other supervisors would support it.

Benicia Black Lives Matter continued to call in to meetings pushing for new oversight. During a meeting on May 4, the supervisors cut off Benicia Black Lives Matter co-founder Brandon Greene. Later, Solano County Republicans organized in opposition to the push for oversight, asking people to call in but not identify themselves as Republicans.

The allegations that sheriff’s deputies beat a Black woman unconscious and then lied about it in reports have renewed calls for oversight of the sheriff’s office. On Tuesday, NAACP Tri-City branch president Johnicon George called in to the Board of Supervisors meeting and said he was “disturbed” by video of the incident and “disappointed” that the supervisors have refused to have any discussion about oversight.

“I’m not confident that this body respects and cares about the African American community in Solano County,” he said, pointing out that the supervisors, none of whom are Black, also declined to institute diversity training for themselves.

Any oversight discussion would be unlikely to succeed as the three men on the board, one of whom is a former sheriff’s lieutenant, each have already endorsed Ferrara’s reelection as sheriff.

Grantham said that would not deter her or Benicia Black Lives Matter from continuing to push for oversight. “It’s probably going to be a fight, it’s going to take a lot of effort to get an oversight board or even a citizens’ advisory board,” she said. “But it’s just like when they were trying to desegregate the schools in the south and Gov. George Wallace was saying ‘over my dead body’ – it seemed impossible but it took a lot of effort.”

Scott Morris is an independent journalist in Oakland covering policing, protest and civil rights. If you appreciate his work please consider making a contribution.

Solano Sheriff Deputies Knocked A Woman Unconscious And Then Lied About It, A Federal Lawsuit Says

[Editor: Here’s ANOTHER good reason for a Solano County Sheriff Oversight Board.  County Supervisors, please take action!  Oh, and… let’s elect a new Sheriff in 2022.  – R.S.]

‘I think she’s out,’ Solano Sheriff deputy says after violent arrest

Associated Press, by Christopher Weber, August 18, 2021
Joe Powell is comforted by his daughter, Nakia Porter, right, during a news conference to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit brought against two Solano County Sheriff’s deputies, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Sacramento, Calif. The lawsuit stems from an incident where the pair, and Porter’s three daughters, had pulled over on the side of the road in Dixon on Aug. 6, 2020, so Powell could take over the driving from his daughter. As they were stopped the two deputies’ squad car pulled up behind and confronted Porter and her father and eventually knocked Porter unconscious and arrested her, then later lied about the incident. The suit accuses the deputies of violating state federal civil rights statutes by engaging in “unlawful seizure, assault and excessive force.” (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

A woman who pulled off a road to change drivers during a trip with her father and three young children was knocked unconscious and arrested by two Northern California sheriff’s deputies, who then lied about the encounter to responding paramedics and on official reports, according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Body cameras worn by the deputies with the Solano County Sheriff’s Office recorded them pulling guns on Nakia Porter before slamming her to the pavement while handcuffing her along a rural road in the town of Dixon on the night of Aug. 6, 2020. Porter’s father, Joe Powell, was also placed in handcuffs and briefly detained.

Porter was jailed overnight on suspicion of resisting arrest, but never charged. She said the ordeal was confusing and dehumanizing.

“I was doing my best to do everything right, giving no reason to be treated like this,” said Porter, 33, who is Black.

The lawsuit brought by attorney Yasin Almadani accuses the deputies of violating state and federal civil rights statutes by engaging in “unlawful seizure, assault and excessive force.”

“Thankfully, the video evidence contradicted the fabricated facts,” Almadani said. “So what occurred here, we believe, was a racially motivated beating and terrorizing of a Black family.”

Solano County sheriff’s officials couldn’t immediately comment because the department hadn’t received a copy of the complaint by Wednesday afternoon, Sgt. Christine Castillo said in an email.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento asks a judge to order a jury trial for the arresting deputies, Dalton McCampbell and Lisa McDowell, and seeks unspecified damages.

The events unfolded as Porter and her 61-year-old father were making the 100-mile (160-kilometer) drive home to Orangevale, northeast of Sacramento, after a family trip to Oakland. Her two daughters, ages 3 and 6, and her 4-year-old niece were in the back seat. Porter is a software engineer, and her father, who’s retired, worked in computer networking.

Porter was behind the wheel when they stopped along an empty road in Dixon. The deputies’ squad car pulled up behind them with lights flashing. Porter already was out of the car and explained that they were just switching drivers and would be on their way, according to the court filing.

The deputies said they noticed the car had mismatched license plates — a California plate on the back of the car, and one from Maryland on the front.

“However, the deputies had called in the rear license plate to their dispatch and knew that it matched the description of the car and that there was no report of the car being stolen,” the filing states.

McCampbell, who had his gun drawn, ordered Porter back to the driver’s side, and he and his partner moved to detain her, according to edited bodycam footage acquired by Almadani and provided to The Associated Press. Almadani acquired more than 18 minutes of raw footage through a California Public Records Act request, and edited it down to just under 10 minutes.

“For those that are listening, I am not resisting,” Porter said into the deputies’ cameras. “You are not reading me my rights.”

The deputies pushed Porter against the squad car and then to the pavement while trying to handcuff her.

“Put your hands behind your back. Get on your stomach,” McCampbell shouted.

The footage gets very shaky, and it’s hard to see whether Porter is resisting. Porter and the court filing allege the deputies punched her in the head and the stomach, kneeled on her back and pulled her hair. She said she passed out seconds after the deputies closed the handcuffs.

“I think she’s out,” McCambell said on the video.

Porter, who is 5-foot-2 (1.6 meters) and 125 pounds (57 kilograms), said she was dragged unconscious to the back of the squad car, where she came to about five minutes later.

When paramedics arrived, McCampbell is heard saying Porter fought them, was knocked out for about 20 seconds and was able to walk herself to the squad car. McDowell estimates to the paramedics that Porter was unconscious for about five seconds.

Porter requested she be transported to a hospital, according to the lawsuit.

“Deputies McCampbell and McDowell denied the request, continuing to lie to the paramedics by minimizing the assault and the injuries they had inflicted on Ms. Porter,” the court filing said.

The lawsuit accuses the deputies of lying on their arrest reports about Porter fighting them and the length of time she was unconscious. Contact information for McCampbell and McDowell could not be found.

The suit also names a superior officer who signed off on the reports.

Cedric Alexander, a police use-of-force expert, was troubled by the video. He wondered why the deputies seemed to rush to detain Porter and Powell without first taking actions to de-escalate the situation, especially with three young kids in the car.

“What’s concerning here is the use of force,” said Alexander, a former president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. “There needs to be a full investigation conducted outside of the sheriff’s department, preferably by a district attorney’s office.”

Grand jury: Solano cops, sheriff deputies need more frequent diversity, bias training

Grand Jury: The No. 1 recommendation is for county law enforcement agencies to adopt a more frequent schedule of diversity and bias training
Vallejo Times-Herald, by Richard Bammer, July 9, 2021

The 2020-21 Solano County civil grand jury found that local law enforcement agencies comply with legal requirements when providing diversity and bias training, but jurors also noted that such training is only required every five years – and that needs to change, jurors said.

In a nine-page document issued June 30, titled “Does Bias Infiltrate Solano County Law Enforcement?” the grand jury pointed out that local police and Sheriff’s Office leaders agreed there is “too much time between training sessions” and its primary recommendation is for county law enforcement agencies adopt a more frequent schedule of diversity and bias training “over and above the current five-year requirement.”

In their one-paragraph summary, jurors found that police officers and deputies followed the guidelines defined by law, established through the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST.

But after jury members interviewed officers and police chiefs in six major cities and Sheriff’s personnel – and reviewed each agency’s policies – they found that operating “in accord with the POST guidelines is not enough,” according to the report.

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Local policing agencies “must go further to ensure elimination of bias as well as safety and equity for the citizens of Solano County,” they concluded.

In a second finding, jurors cited a lack of “adequate funding” hinders the various agencies’ ability to provide additional and more frequent training, recommending that law enforcement leaders seek more dollars for diversity and bias training. At the same time, the grand jury also recommended that the county’s police departments and the Sheriff’s Office collaborate in providing such training.

A third finding indicated that the grand jury believes more “underrepresented people,” that is, ethnic minorities, need to be in decision-making roles, recommending that law enforcement agencies “promote more underrepresented people to decision making positions.”

In a lengthy fourth finding, the grand jury cited state Penal Code section 13651, which, in short, states that police and sheriff’s offices that review job descriptions used to recruit peace officers “shall make changes that emphasize community-based policing, familiarization between law enforcement and community residents, and collaborative problem solving, while de-emphasizing the paramilitary aspects of the job.” Jury members also discovered that “all administrators mentioned the general population’s lack of trust of law enforcement officers.”

Grand jurors, thus, recommended that training de-emphasize a paramilitary approach to policing and collaborate with community organizations to problem-solve.

“Employee turnover” is a problem “for some” law enforcement agencies, they found in a fifth finding, recommending specifically that Suisun City increase the length of its employment contract to five years and find ways to achieve pay equity in the county to limit turnover in smaller communities.

In the sixth and final finding, the grand jury noted reports from the FBI that extremist groups are “infiltrating” law enforcement agencies.

“While local law enforcement agencies investigate applicants as part of the vetting process, they rely on employee and citizen complaints to identify current staff social media postings for extremist ideology,” according to the report’s wording.

Jurors made three recommendations: 1) that county law enforcement agencies monitor social media postings by current staff for extremist content; 2) that law enforcement leaders “keep up with the technology that their employees are using”; and 3) that law enforcement leaders “research and implement technology” which assists in monitoring social media without violating First Amendment rights under the Constitution.

Download the report: “Does Bias Infiltrate Solano County Law Enforcement?

The grand jury’s report, one of several recently issued, comes as the Black Lives Matter movement has gained prominence in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted last month for Floyd’s May 25, 2020, murder.

Floyd was detained after trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. During the arrest, Chauvin knelt on his neck for some nine minutes as Floyd, face down on street pavement, cried out that he could not breathe.

It was an example, whether or not bias was involved, of how routine encounters can escalate or turn deadly, as they did with the police killings of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., both in 2014, among many others.

Police training and programs that focus on implicit bias have emerged as a key component of police reform efforts nationwide in an effort to engender trust in policing.

Besides interviewing officers, deputies law enforcement agency leaders, grand jury members relied on numerous reports, including “Can Cops Unlearn Their Unconscious Biases?” a 2017 Atlantic article; a report by the Brookings Institution about how the U.S. is diversifying even faster than predicted; and a report from openvallejo.org, an online newsroom, reporting that Solano County Sheriff’s deputies and a Vacaville City Council member potentially promoted anti-government militia, including the posting of Three Percenter imagery on their public social media pages.

Additionally, they noted an April 18, 2021, segment of “60 Minutes” investigated the Oath Keepers, an identified extremist group, and their role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. “A leader of the Oath Keepers in Arizona proudly proclaimed they have many members in police forces around their state,” jurors wrote in the report.

Research organizations such as the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability and Fairness in Law Enforcement and the Plain View Project have uncovered hundreds of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials participating in racist, nativist, and sexist social media activity. “Departments often know about these officers’ activities, but those activities have only resulted in disciplinary action or termination if they trigger public concern,” according to the report.

In its “statement of facts” section of the report, jurors wrote: “The biggest problem in addressing possible biases is that unconscious biases are part of growing up in an atmosphere in which stereotypes are part of everyday life (the thinking we are exposed to as children influences how we interpret events and people around us).”

“Researchers have found that people can consciously embrace fairness and equality, but on tests measuring subconscious tendencies, they still lean on stereotypes in profiling people they don’t know,” jurors added.

“The results can be surprising for those that do not feel they have any biases,” the grand jury report indicated.