BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
A group that sprung up after San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies fatally tased and beat an unarmed jaywalker has a plan for overseeing Sheriff Christina Corpus’ sheriff’s office that will cost the county $2.5 million a year.
The Board of Supervisors will review the plan from the group, Fixin’ San Mateo County, and other ideas for sheriff’s oversight on Tuesday.
This puts some supervisors in an awkward political position, as Supervisors Ray Mueller and Noelia Corzo have endorsed Fixin’ San Mateo County’s work and also endorsed Corpus. But Nancy Goodban, executive director of Fixin, says their goal is not to be adversarial to Corpus and her office — but to give feedback on policies and to have a good working relationship with the sheriff.
Fixin, which was formed in late 2021, says in a report that since 2010, 19 people have been killed by law enforcement in the county “with no transparency or accountability for how or why lethal force was used.”
In all cases, the officers were cleared by the District Attorney’s Office. Some of those deaths, such as the death of Chinedu Okobi after being tasered by sheriff’s deputies in Millbrae, have resulted in settlements. In February, the county agreed to pay Okobi’s mother and daughter $4.5 million. In Redwood City, the family of Palo Alto teacher Kyle Hart sued the city after he was shot and killed while having a mental health crisis. That lawsuit is still ongoing.
The Board of Supervisors last year, before Corzo and Mueller were seated, voted unanimously to look into Fixin’s proposal. Since then, Supervisors Warren Slocum and Dave Pine have been looking into the idea, and have put together a roster of speakers for Tuesday’s meeting.
As for Fixin’s draft ordinance, it’s presented to the board, it proposes to have the county spend about $2.5 million, which equates to about 1% of the sheriff’s budget, on oversight. Fixin SMC is clear it does not think the money should come from the sheriff’s budget, but elsewhere in the county’s $7.7 billion budget.
The group, headed up by Goodban and Jim Lawrence, suggests that the oversight comes from a civilian oversight board consisting of 11 residents, two from each supervisorial district and one at large. The board would hold public meetings and receive input from people in the county, and give feedback on policies or other issues to the Sheriff or Board of Supervisors. Goodban said ideally the commissioners would get $500 per meeting, but said that is up to the supervisors to decide. It would act similarly to the county’s current Juvenile Justice Commission.
They also want an Inspector General, who would either be a county employee or a contractor who has both an investigatory and criminal law background and would investigate complaints against the sheriff’s office. The Inspector General would also look into patrol and jail operations, investigate jail deaths and use-of-force, according to the group’s proposal.
If the Inspector General finds any alleged criminal misconduct in the sheriff’s office, he or she would hand the matter over to the District Attorney’s Office, the proposal suggests.
Not many police agencies on the Mid-Peninsula have such oversight. Palo Alto contracts with the OIR Group, headed up by Mike Gennaco, which audits complaints about the police department and looks at use-of-force incidents.
Santa Clara County also has a contract with Gennaco who puts together similar reports for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to review.
The Board of Supervisors are meeting Tuesday to discuss sheriff oversight and will have presentations from eight groups — the County Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, National Association of Civilian Oversight for Law Enforcement, the John Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities from Stanford, Coalition for a Safer San Mateo County — which includes Fixin’ SMC, the San Mateo County Deputy Sheriff’s union, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Sergeants union and Susan Manheimer, retired San Mateo Chief of Police and is a local liaison with the Department of Justice.