to Women in Policing Index
Sexism than Ever at Sonoma
County Sheriff's Department
deputies openly bragging about driving women out of the department,
male deputies boasting about turning their backs on domestic violence
victims, unrelenting retaliation against female deputies who report
harassment, department protection and promotion of the perpetrators,
spiteful, anti-women, written policies, failures to back up female
deputy calls for help, unwanted kissing and intimacies from male
the 243 sworn law enforcement deputies in the department, only
13, or a meager 6% are female; less than half the national average
of 13% female sworn officers for a department of comparable size.
Moreover, there is not one female deputy of any rank in the department..............
are just a fraction of the allegations in the most recent sex
discrimination lawsuit against the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department
filed March 23 in federal court by Lauren Ferrara, a recently
resigned deputy, and by corrections seargent, Robin Smith.
to Sheriff Bill Cogbill, the lawsuit names more than a dozen assistant
sheriffs, captains, lieutenants, and seargents as defendants,
many of whom are repeat offenders named as perpetrators in prior
sex discrimination cases. Promoted over the years, instead of
being fired, these career offenders now fill the department's
This new lawsuit
comes just three months after all thirteen of the department's
female deputies jointly signed a 14 page letter of protest and
calls-for-changes to Sheriff Cogbill. The letter comes after the
women exhausted other remedies to correct the "sexist"
and "abhorrent" work atmosphere described in their letter.
the lawsuit and the letter paint a disturbing picture of a rogue
department galvanized around anti-women hostilities, from the
top ranks down. Moreover, they cap a decade of department failures
to correct its archaic disdain for women, despite constant pressures
on the department to do so by women's rights groups, and by numerous
warnings from state and national officials.
Decade of Shame
last ten years, the same Sheriff's Department has already paid
out over a million and a quarter dollars in at least ten other
sex discrimination claims. Most of these lawsuits were filed by
female deputies. But in the most renowned case, in June, 2002,
Sonoma County Sheriff's department was ordered to pay a million
dollars to the children of slain domestic violence victim, Teresa
Macias, for the department's sexist and racist disregard of Teresa's
more than 22 calls to the Sheriff for help.
these same ten years, there have been ongoing efforts by women's
groups, and numerous warnings by justice officials, to break up
the virulent male monopoly that grips the department. But despite
petitions, scores of demostrations, two US Department of Justice
investigations, an attorney general report, and grand jury and
other commission reports, Sonoma County Sheriff's Department ends
the decade more locked into its neanderthal male rule than then
when the decade began.
aspirations inside the department remain crushed. Many top quality
female officers are driven from the department. Others are never
hired in the first place. Women crime victims who call the department
for help continue to receive dangerous and contemptful responses.
And the community safety is compromised, and robbed of the many
proven, essential benefits women bring to policing.
decades of research on women in policing are indisputable; women
use a style of policing that relies more on communication and
less on the use of force. Female police have dramatically fewer
excessive-use-of-force and other misconduct complaints than their
male counterparts. Female police excel in de-escalating violent
and volatile situations, in carrying out community policing goals,
and in fostering the cooperation and trust of the community. They
treat violence against women and children more seriously, crimes
which account for more than a third of all police calls. At the
same time, the research shows that female officers are as fully
capable and willing as male officers to use force when necessary.
integrating women into law enforcement is the essential and best
remedy for improving policing, and for fixing the flaws that have
plagued law enforcement for decades.
of the research on women in policing see:
and Retaining Women:
A Self Assessment Guide for Law Enforcement
Publications on Women in Policing
Immeasurable Harm to All
community we invest huge resources and exclusive government
powers in the Sheriff's Department. Allowing defiant, male supremacists
to control these powers and resources does immeasurable harm
to the community. Here are just a couple points to consider:
It's impossible to stop violence against women when many of
the authorities who respond have much the same mentality as
the perpetrators. If the men at the Sheriff's Department can't
even work with women colleagues, imagine what happens to the
very vulnerable women who call the Sheriff's Department for
never ending train of other abuses of power by the Sheriff's
Department - the excessive-use-of-deadly-force, the deaths
and lawsuits that follow, the jail deaths, pornography scandals,
racial discrimination, coroner-expert perjury, the gun-to-the-head
training exercise - all leave deep scars in community trust
in addition to the direct harm to the immediate victims. Most
recently, this is evidenced by the protest and outcry of more
than 200 Windsor Latinos last Fall against the Sheriff Department's
abusive tactics. These gross abuses of power flow inevitably
from the arrogant, supremacist, flat-learning curve, roster
of men who fill the department's top ranks.
County Sheriff's Department is the largest law enforcement
agency in Sonoma County, responsible not only for all law
enforcement in unincorporated areas but also for all law enforcement
in the towns of Windsor and Sonoma. In addition, the Sheriff's
Department has exclusive control of managing the county jail,
and of the coroner's office and it's critical county-wide
deputies hold many ranking and teaching posts at the SRJC
Police Academy, including the directorship of the evening
academy. In the year 2000, under the directorship of Sheriff's
Deputy Peter Hardy, 5 women cadets out of a total of 8 female
cadets were driven out of the academy by sexual harassment
that had been repeatedly reported to Deputy Hardy and to other
Sheriff's deputies. These male Sheriff's deputies supported
the perpetrator male cadet and allowed him to graduate, as
they allowed the women's careers to be destroyed.
(Click here to see
Sexual Harassment at SRJC Police Academy)
Support the Female Sheriff's Employees. In addition to outlining
the disastrous environment for women inside the department,
the 14 page letter by the female deputies calls for a number
of specific changes needed inside the department. We urge everyone
to please read this letter in order to better support the women's
see letter click here.)
request of the women that should be fulfilled immediately is
their call for an outside expert/consultant to be brought in
to "bridge the gap" between the female officers and
an urgent first step in fixing the Sheriff's department is for
people to call or write the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
and insist that this request of the female officers for an outside
expert/consultant be met immediately.
Board of Supervisors - 565-2241
are some other beginning community urgent care tips for bringing
up our Sheriff's Department.
There needs to be a long term, independent watchdog committee
- of the pit bull variety - with the sole focus of ending employment
sex discrimination at the Sheriff's Department. The committee
needs to monitor the recruiting, retention, promotion, written
policies, and other issues related to female employees. This
is particularly critical as the department enters an accelerated
the biggest mistake that's been made in the past, whether by
local groups or by justice officials, has been to take the Sheriff's
promises at their word that corrections would be made. By now
it's clear that the Sheriff makes these promises only to fend
off the public vigilance so they can continue in their contempt
for women with impunity. Constant, ongoing, independent monitoring
is essential to ending the discrimination.
Many Heads Must Roll. There's no way that the needed changes
can take place without removing the abusers that control the
top ranks of the department. No matter what corrections are
put into place, if the abusers remain at the top they will sabotage
the changes. The women deputies' letter to Sheriff Cogbill,
as well as the record of lawsuits, as well as the community's
experience with the department, all point to the same conclusion.
The worst perpetrators have promoted each other over the years
and consolidated their abusive tactics into policy. They need
to go, now!
just one example: In 1997, veteran deputy and highly respected
violent crimes detective, Ann Duckette, abruptly left the department
and filed a sex discrimination complaint. The male detectives
of the prestigious violent crimes unit had frozen her out, she
claimed. They wouldn't communicate with her, and they actively
sabotaged her cases by hiding and obstructing the evidence in
multiple felony violent crimes cases up to and including a murder
four of the male detectives in that unit at the time have since
been promoted. At least two of them are named in the current
Women must be moved into the top ranks of the department; drawing
from within the department, and lateraling in from the outside.
Trying to correct the discrimination solely by bringing
more women in at the bottom while leaving men-only at the top
will just reset the stage for a resurgence of the male supremacy.
In addition to promoting from within, high ranking women must
be 'lateraled in' from other departments.
long standing reluctance of the upper ranks to cross pollinate
with the rest of the world has only exacerbated the closed mentalities
plaguing our local agencies.
ranking officials of our Sheriff's Department cannot be believed.
It's an intolerable dilemma for the public when we can't trust
the people we've entrusted with power. But the record is clear.
Too many of the men who fill the top ranks of the department
have constantly lied and deceived the public at critical junctures:
lied to the press, lied in depositions, lied to justice officials,
lied in writing, and in front of the camera.
the most recent example. In a March 23 response to the lawsuit,
the Sheriff's department issued a press release listing the
things the Sheriff claims to have done regarding the female
deputies' requests. But according to the text of the lawsuit
and other sources none of the women's requests had been responded
to by that date.
for problems to get solved, it's essential the public not take
the department at their word.
Look Beyond Local Press for the Facts. Part of the reason
the public believes Sheriff's officials is that the local press
serves more as a public relations arm for the department than
as a critical, objective observer. This lap dog journalism over
the years has kept the public from seeing the gravity of the
the most recent example. Neither of the two articles published
by the Press Democrat on the current law suit reported the department's
alarmingly low statistics of female deputies. This information
was withheld despite the fact that the numbers were readily
available, easily verifiable, and highly significant to the
story. In contrast, the San Francisco Chronicle placed these
statistics prominently in their article.
In addition, neither one of the Press Democrat articles noted
that the thirteen female officers who signed the letter were
all the female deputies in the department, and the only female
deputies. The numbers in this situation are the solid and indisputable
information the public needs to understand just how serious
the situation is. When all thirteen female deputies jointly
write and sign a 14 page letter, we, the public need to be alarmed!
key difference between the Sheriff's department and other
police agencies is that the Sheriff's department has two distinct
and separate functions - one is law enforcement and the other
is running the county jail. Sheriff's law enforcement officers
are deputized. They have the power of arrest, along with other
law enforcement powers. The jail corrections officers, however,
do not have these powers. The law enforcement deputies and
corrections officers don't rotate from one side of the department
to the other.
There is a significant
percentage of female corrections officers. But according to
the department's own December 2004 figures, on the law enforcement
side only 6%, or 13 out of a total of 243 deputies, are female.
These 13 female deputies wrote and signed the letter to Sheriff
is a hostile environment against women throughout the Sheriff's
Department, clearly the law enforcement side goes beyond hostility
to a pattern of keeping women out and driving them out altogether.
to understand this difference because Sheriff's officials
often attempt to deceive the public about the lack of women
on the law enforcement side by presenting the statistics in
a lump sum. That is, by adding corrections officers and law
enforcement deputies in one sum, the near non- existence of
females in law enforcement becomes invisible.
2: Sadly, since the December letter was written another
one of the women deputies has left the department, leaving now
only 12 female deputies. Cheryl Mayhew was a veteran law enforcement
officer and a detective on the domestic violence/sexual assault