UNFORESEEN CHALLENGES

SOCIAL JUSTICE AND RACIAL EQUITY


Protests calling for social justice and racial equity reverberated around the world after the Memorial Day police killing of George Floyd. His death, and those of others at the hands of police, prompted changes in law enforcement and much more.  

The Sheriff’s Department and other local law enforcement agencies dropped the use of the chokehold, a compliance technique that can prove fatal if used improperly. The Sheriff also issued a directive that employees have a duty to intervene if they have knowledge of another employee’s misconduct.

The department partnered with the Center on Policing Equity to independently analyze Racial and Identity Profiling Act data collected by the department and reported to the State.

In addition to enhanced de-escalation training for deputies, the District Attorney’s Office began regional de-escalation training for all law enforcement in an effort to eliminate racial bias. So far, 700 officers have taken part and the D.A.’s Office plans to train another 5,000 officers across the county.  

The Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board was given expanded authority to provide independent oversight of the Sheriff’s Department and Probation. 

The Leon L. Williams Human Relations Commission was formed in May to promote respect and integrity for all individuals. Williams was the first African-American person to serve as a County Supervisor and had established a similar commission decades ago before it dissolved from lack of funding.

 

"When you really make a difference in what happens in  society, there is something wonderful about that, even though it's hard work." 

- Former County Supervisor Leon L. Williams

A new Office of Equity and Racial Justice will identify systemic bias within the County organization.

A Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan developed in 2014 is still an active part of the County culture. New hires learn its goals the first day on the job. Workshops, trainings and other activities promote culture, diversity, equity and inclusion throughout their careers. 

One of the plan’s goals included a workforce that reflected the region’s population as determined by the 2010 census. Figures show the County is in alignment and data from the 2020 census will be used to make any adjustments.

Another show of support for diversity is reflected in the lighting of the County Administration Center. The historic building was lit up in various colors this past year for George Floyd, civil rights icon John Lewis, Pride weekend and Juneteenth.

Outside the organization, COVID-19 highlighted health disparities as some local communities were hit harder than others. The County is addressing those disparities, partnering with the COVID-19 Health Equity Taskforce and the Filipino Coalition.

Outreach to Latinos intensified because of the high case rate in local Latino communities. A new TV, radio, online and signage campaign spread the word on protective measures and community resources.

The pandemic also underlined the need to get County information out to residents in their first language. This coming year, $2.5 million will be used for translation services.