Santa Rosa got an early start to its annual budget battles Tuesday, with some of the newest faces on the council driving a lengthy and often confusing debate about funding for next year’s Police Department budget.
Sonoma County police seized more than $400,000 and 328 pounds of marijuana during a fall campaign to stop drug traffickers on Highway 101 during the outdoor marijuana harvest.
Critics of the Santa Rosa Police Department called for a full accounting of the city’s legal defense in the fatal shooting of Richard DeSantis and said the officer involved should be fired.
A small group of activists addressed the City Council on Tuesday, five days after a federal jury found a Santa Rosa police sergeant violated the civil rights of DeSantis when he fatally shot the unarmed man outside his Roseland home in 2007.
They urged the city not to continue spending money to appeal the case, which is five years old and has already been petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A federal jury in San Francisco on Thursday found that a Santa Rosa police sergeant violated the civil rights of an unarmed man when he shot him to death outside the man’s home in 2007. The eight-member jury concluded that the shooting of Richard DeSantis did not have a ‘legitimate law enforcement purpose’ and awarded his family more than $500,000 in damages, plus attorneys’ fees. The verdict was a blow to city officials, who fully backed the actions of all six officers who responded to the 911 call and spent nearly five years trying to get the lawsuit thrown out.
An initiative to abolish the death penalty qualified Monday for the November ballot, once again thrusting Californians into the debate over capital punishment. If the measure passes, men convicted of some of Sonoma County’s most heinous crimes would have their sentences converted from death to life without the possibility of parole. Among them are seven men convicted of killing their own children and wives, of raping girls, of stabbing an elderly woman and of shooting a deputy.
A turf war broke out on the Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday over whether the city is doing enough to measure the effectiveness of its gang prevention efforts, with rival council members sparring over whether the debate was a legitimate issue or political posturing. Following a presentation by police Chief Tom Schwedhelm about the department’s efforts to track gang crime statistics, Councilman Gary Wysocky tussled with Mayor Ernesto Olivares.
Since 2004, when Santa Rosa voters approved Measure O, taxpayers have spent more than $7 million on gang prevention and intervention programs. To ensure the programs were effective, the city’s gang-prevention officials vowed to work with the Santa Rosa Police Department to closely track gang crime statistics in the city. Seven years into the program, that hasn’t happened.
For some, the decision by local law enforcement officials to accept Mexican consular IDs represents a violation of the rule of law and an official acceptance of the growing presence of illegal immigrants. But police say it is the most sensible way to play the hand dealt to them by ineffective federal lawmakers who have failed to address issues surrounding illegal immigration. What is your take?