Uproar Halts Supervisors’ Session

Jan 27, 2015

This adamant call to action -posted on the Justice for Andy Lopez Facebook page--drew a restive group of activists to the Board meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Angry and impatient Andy Lopez activists loudly vented their frustrations before county supervisors yesterday afternoon, forcing an early halt to the public comment period.

The text of the letter to Sheriff Freitas is reproduced here, with his response below.

September 9, 2014

Re: Letter of Concern

Dear Sheriff Freitas,

At the August 25th meeting of the Community Engagement and Healing Subcommittee, between 25-30 members of the public were present and participated in a series of discussions. The primary topic of the evening was the return to active duty of Deputy Erick Gelhaus. The purpose of this letter is to make you aware of the serious concerns expressed by those who attended the meeting.

The comments ranged from concern and outrage to expressions of fear. The consensus of the members of the public present and a majority of the Community Engagement and Healing Subcommittee, was that you rethink and reconsider your decision to place Deputy Gelhaus back on patrol and, in the interest of healing the community, that he be reassigned in another capacity.

As members of the Subcommittee, we feel it is important that you be aware of the opinions expressed.


Judy Rice, Chairperson

Community Engagement and Healing Subcommittee of the Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force

Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas

  October 3, 2014

Judy Rice, Chairperson

Community Engagement and Healing Subcommittee ofthe Community and Local Law Enforcement Task force

575 Administration Drive, Suite 100A

Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Dear Judy,

I am in receipt of your letter, dated September 9, 2014. I appreciate the Subcommittee sharing its concerns with me. While I understand there is frustration regarding this topic with some in our community, it is my constitutional responsibility to follow policies and laws. Deputy Sheriff Gelhaus was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by our District Attorney. Additionally, an internal investigation evaluated Sheriffs Office policies and determined that Deputy Sheriff Gelhaus did not violate any policy.

Also, it is important to note that the Sheriff's Office, and I, have received literally hundreds of calls, letters of support, and personal interactions with the public that expressed support for Deputy Gelhaus' return to patrol duty. This includes neighborhoods throughout the entire County. As Sheriff: l am elected by the County as a whole and must balance needs for all citizens.

Given the exhaustive and intense outside investigation, as well as our internal one, there are no legislative reasons to not return Deputy Sheriff Gelhaus to his assignment on patrol. I respect and listen to all opinions from members ofthe public. including your Subcommittee.

I will continue to welcome collaborative and constructive ideas that will benefit all of Sonoma County.