A community meeting held on Tuesday evening to discuss the hiring of an investigator to lead the nascent Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board attracted exactly one participant: A longtime friend of one of seven members of the board.
Four of the seven board members were present at the meeting, with a fifth arriving as it was concluding. The sole call-in participant hung up without offering input, complaining that he could not hear anything.
The Oversight Board, established by voters in 2020 to investigate complaints against Sheriff’s Deputies, is in the process of hiring an Inspector General who will lead the investigations. Some board members hoped meetings like last night’s would inform them on “the intangible things that community members want to see in a leader,” Julie Soo, the board member whose friend attended, explained to the nearly empty Bayview Opera House.
Soo’s friend, Linda Richardson, stepped in to fill the silence following the request for public comment, a request that only she could fulfill. It would be useful, she said, to see the proposed qualifications for the Inspector General position, so the public could weigh in on what could be added or changed.
Soo said that the job description, which has not yet been shared with the public, was an attempt to capture as broad a pool of applicants as possible. Once HR receives applications, job seekers will be asked to answer written questions, prior to an in-person interview. The community meetings are supposed to help formulate the written questions that will be asked, Soo said.
In December, board members Xóchitl Carrión and Soo led the charge against using a recruiting firm to help hire the inspector. A month later, after little movement in the hiring process, the two wrote their own draft job description, which was then sent to the Department of Human Resources to take over the recruitment process.
“It’s arduous to establish a new department,” said Carrión during the meeting. It could take a year after hiring an Inspector General for all personnel to be hired, she continued. The other members also present: Jayson Wechter, Ovava Eterei Afuhaamango and Dion-Jay Brookter, who arrived 45 minutes late. Michael Nguyen and William Monroe Palmer were absent.
Almost 40 minutes into the meeting, board members voted to break for 10 minutes, in the hope that more participants would arrive, conjecturing about potential travel delays due to rain.
When they resumed at 6:45 p.m., Linda Richardson remained alone.
The Board has to make sure to get the word out next time, Brookter subsequently announced to his fellow board members and the room full of folding chairs.
The gathering on Tuesday was the first of five scheduled community meetings. It followed a one-and-a-half hour special session in January to take public comment on the same topic by Soo and Carrión.
That session received zero call-ins.
“This is just the beginning of the conversation,” said Carrión, as the Board prepared to end the meeting over an hour early. “This is the first step, the first meeting. Please call, come in person, send us an email.”
The next meeting will be held on March 28 at 6 p.m. at the Hamilton Recreation Center in Japantown.