January 7, 2020 — The sheriff’s presentation before the board of supervisors this week elicited critiques of his data, a request for a resident deputy in Covelo, and demands for him to issue a formal apology for including an image of a hog-tied Black man on a PowerPoint slide.
Sheriff Matt Kendall was asking the board to give him the go-ahead to request funding from the state to hire, train and equip ten more deputies to combat organized crime and cartel grows, which he says have proliferated in the Third District, especially Covelo. The total three-year estimate for the deputies, their training and their gear, including vehicles, came out to a little over $4 million. To justify the request, the sheriff included seventeen SWAT activations, two of them out-of-county assists, an increase in coroner’s cases, and a list of major crimes per year, going back to 2014. Homicides in 2020 were up to 13 from 8 the previous year, though they climbed to 18 the year before that. Assaults, including sexual assault and assault with a deadly weapon, public intoxication, and child abuse are down, but Kendall fears reporting is down, too. And some of the violent crimes have involved multiple perpetrators, which presents time-consuming complications.
But written and oral comments called out the incomplete data. Chloe Reed wrote that the cumulative statistics on another slide are “essentially meaningless in the context of this proposal,” because they provided no comparison data. Other commenters asked for resources to be allocated to out-of-work families or social workers to address the underlying causes of crime.
The slide that troubled everyone had two pictures and a caption but no explanation. The image under the words Imminent Threat portrayed a shadowy figure with an assault rifle, carrying a large bundle on its back, presumably a game camera still from a robbery at a cannabis garden.
The next image, beneath the words Appropriate Response, is of a Black man lying in the dirt, covered with dust, his hands tied behind his back and his legs bent behind him.
Kendall says that the picture is an instance of vigilante violence from a garden robbery in Laytonville last year, and that it’s the kind of thing that could be prevented if there was enough law enforcement in the area.
But Ron Edwards, a licensed nursery owner in Willits who has been a long time advocate in the regulation process, wanted more information. He’s also a Black man, and he was livid about the image.
No apology for the image was forthcoming, but the board appeared to agree that the item needed more data, voting unanimously to have Supervisors Ted Williams and John Haschak work with the sheriff to document crime related to illegal pot and come back to the board with a more comprehensive presentation before sending it along to the state.