.Prepare to Engage

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department is slated to be the first agency in California to implement all 79 of President Obama’s 21st Century Policing recommendations. Working with a community task force, the sheriff plans to identify the best way to provide an effective partnership between the community and law enforcement. It boils down to wanting to increase trust.
“In my 27 years in law enforcement I have never seen this level of public concern about police integrity,” said Sheriff Jim Hart during a community meeting the sheriff’s department hosted on Jan. 21.
Hart says these concerns have caused people to question police tactics, judgment and motives. “I believe that by reviewing our policy model and making some modifications, shifting our thinking, and being open to positive change, we will be a model as an exemplary law enforcement agency,” he said.
In response to ongoing nationwide concerns about policing, Obama signed an executive order forming a task force to pinpoint areas of improvement for law enforcement agencies in December 2014. The ensuing report, released in May, has spurred some law enforcement agencies, like the local sheriff’s department, to begin thinking about a shift.
Hart assigned a task force of 20 deputies and 20 community members to examine and discuss the recommendations.
At the event, which Congressmember Anna Eshoo attended, deputies announced plans to purchase body cameras, another move Obama has pushed for, although some activists have mixed feelings, based on privacy concerns.
Rico Baker, a member of the Veterans for Peace Santa Cruz Chapter, tells GT he’s inspired that Hart is on board with the new task force, calling it groundbreaking.
The community team, which includes Baker, is focusing on topics ranging from the best way to reintegrate convicted juveniles to the most effective way to involve the community in developing and evaluating procedures.
The sheriff’s department is poised to finish this project in July. County Supervisor John Leopold said the board of supervisors will be reviewing what the sheriff’s department develops. 


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