Community Discusses Strained Relations with Sheriff’s Deputies

Top row, from left to right: David Brown, Felecia Gaston, Lt. Doug Pittman, Pam Bousquet, Sgt. Gary Brock, Royce McLemore, Gladys Denis. Far right: Sheriff Department Citizens Complaint Report. Bottom: Concerned residents expressing their frustrations with the Sheriff’s deputies. (Photos by Godfrey Lee).

By Godfrey Lee The relationship between the Sheriff’s Department and the community in Marin City has become strained, and needs to be improved, according to the  Community Services District, which is holding meetings to encourage community members to discuss their experiences with Sheriff deputies. A public safety town hall meeting  was held Monday, Sept. 24 at the Marguerita C. Johnson Senior Center, as a follow-up to discuss concerns shared during  previous meetings. Attending the meeting were Jonathan Logan, who moderated the discussion, and Lt. Doug Pittman and Sgt. Gary Brock, who represented the Sheriff’s Department. David Brown, Chief Deputy Public Defender for Marin County, gave out copies of the Victims’ Bill of Rights. Supervisor Kate Sears was also present. Residents of  Marin City  said they feel deputies have been insensitive to them and have been harassing community members. They said they still respect the Sheriff’s Department, though these issues have been straining the community’s relationship with the department. Robert Doyle, Marin County Sheriff, said he recognizes this problem and emphasized in  an op-ed piece “Marin Voice: Partnership Needed in Marin City” that the “Police/community relationship in Marin City needs to be improved.” The  department’s substation in Marin City serves all the unincorporated community, south of Corde Madera, which includes Marin City, Doyle said in the column. “Although Marin City represents less than 10 percent of the population we serve, over one-third of our calls for service are from Marin City,” he said. “Most of those calls require a response of more than one deputy, and more are calls for service involving violence.” Because of robberies and crime in Marin City, the substation in Marin City is the busiest of the four patrol areas in Marin County. The deputies assigned to that area are therefore in “a state of heightened awareness,” Doyle said. In addition, most deputies receive their training in Marin City, says Doyle. They are therefore “inexperienced,” he said, and this affects how they treat the people they are dealing with. This experience and the pressure on the job may turn into the insensitivity and harassment experienced by members of the community, he said Doyle said  it is important that residents file their complaints and document an incident if they think that a deputy acted improperly toward them. And the complaints need to be filed as soon as possible after an incident occurs, he said. It is even OK to videotape the incident as long as the one doing the taping is not the one being stopped or arrested, he added. Logan said that the residents should  mail copies of their complaint to the Community Services District so that they can know what happened and become a second pair of eyes to the incident.
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