Family of Glenn Swindell Suing Sonoma County

The family of a Santa Rosa man who killed himself last year during an armed standoff with Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies sued the county Friday in federal court, alleging an unwarranted, militarized assault on his home forced him to take his own life.

Glenn Swindell, a 39-year-old grocery store employee, shot himself at the end of a nearly 12-hour siege that began when his wife called 911 May 16 to report he had locked himself in the Manka Circle house with their two young children after the couple had an argument.

Dozens of deputies, including a SWAT team with an armored vehicle, descended on Swindell’s home and remained for hours after he released the kids and refused to come out. He committed suicide sometime the next morning when deputies filled the attic he was hiding in with tear gas and other chemical irritants, causing him extreme suffering, the lawsuit says.

The suit claims deputies overreacted after reading what they thought were anti-law enforcement statements on Swindell’s Facebook page and learning he had two legally registered guns. It alleges authorities violated his right to free speech, to bear arms and to be protected from illegal search.

“They were going after him for who he was,” said his younger brother Rick Swindell, who flew in from Arizona to announce the suit. “That’s the problem here. They pushed him into a corner where he had to kill himself.”

He and other family members are seeking unspecified damages for pain and suffering as well as punitive damages to make an example of deputies who they claim punish people for asserting their rights.

Swindell’s widow, Sarah, 30, his brother and mother Deborah Belka of Bellingham, Wash., held a 1 p.m. news conference after filing the suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The family’s lawyer, Arnoldo Casillas, also represents the parents of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, the Santa Rosa youth who was killed by a sheriff’s deputy as he walked down a street with an airsoft gun designed to look like an assault rifle.

The Lopez family is reportedly seeking millions of dollars in their wrongful death suit against the county and Deputy Erick Gelhaus. A trial is scheduled for some time next year.

Sarah Swindell is represented by her own lawyer, Sebastopol attorney and Lopez activist Jonathan Melrod.

Sheriff’s officials and county lawyers declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Lt. Mark Essick previously denied any wrongdoing, saying deputies were bound by policy to arrest Swindell after receiving a report of domestic violence with guns in the house.

Essick said deputies were acting on a report from the wife that Swindell attacked her before barricading himself inside. The wife said this week the dispute was only verbal.

When he wouldn’t come out, deputies and SWAT team officers tried to talk to Swindell by phone and loudspeaker and brought in a hostage negotiator.

At some point, he used a cellphone to call his mother, talking to her for more than an hour. But he wouldn’t surrender, in part because he feared being killed by deputies “just like Andy Lopez,” she said.

“He just wanted them to go away,” his mother said.

As the standoff wore on, authorities set off flash grenades and fired tear gas into the home through broken windows. Eventually, they used the armored truck to break down the front and garage doors and go inside.

Swindell was found dead in the attic with a gun beside his body.

His mother said deputies created a situation where he was forced to shoot himself.

“It was a gas chamber up there,” Belka said. “He was suffering from all the chemicals.”

Swindell had no mental health issues and wasn’t suicidal but may have suffered a kind of post-traumatic stress from a car crash, his family said.

His Facebook page contained a comment that Americans are seven times more likely to die from police violence than terrorism, but he was not a paranoid person or a conspiracy theorist, his brother said.

His mother had previously said that Glenn Swindell spent a year off work following a car accident and had started following, a website operated by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. In the same interview, however, she stressed that her son “was not a violent man.”

His family on Thursday said Swindell was a family man and longtime Safeway employee who enjoyed gardening and fixing up the house he and his wife bought in a foreclosure sale in 2009.

His dreams were shattered by the fateful encounter with deputies, his wife said.

In addition to her husband’s death, she said their home suffered about $300,000 in damage, including broken windows and doors and contamination from chemicals.

She recalled walking back into the damaged house the day after her husband died. On the kitchen counter, beside two bowls used by her kids for ice cream, was a pamphlet of the Bill of Rights that her husband kept in a drawer.

“He must have been looking at it going, ‘What do I do?’ ” she said as she thumbed through the pages. “He wasn’t going to walk out into a war zone with these guys all pointing guns at him.”

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or On Twitter @ppayne.

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Bernard Norton Jr. alleges racial profiling and excessive force by SRPD

A Santa Rosa man has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit saying he was beaten by police after being stopped near Stony Point Road last year for “driving while black.”

Bernard Norton Jr., 47, alleges racial profiling and excessive force in the incident that he said left him battered and a nervous wreck.

“Everywhere I go, when I see the police, I literally have an anxiety attack,” Norton said. “I am in fear of my life. My other black friends in Santa Rosa feel the same way.”

The ex-convict said he was driving home from a Mexican restaurant with his girlfriend the afternoon of Jan. 18, 2014, when he made eye contact with a Santa Rosa police officer driving in the opposite direction.

The officer turned around and followed Norton’s 1991 Chevy Suburban for several blocks, passing him when Norton pulled to the side of the road in anticipation of a traffic stop. Norton continued north on Stony Point, turning onto Jennings Avenue. He looked in his rearview mirror and saw the same patrol car coming up behind him, he said.

He pulled over again, but this time got out of his car and asked the officer, “Why are you harassing me?” the lawsuit said.

The officer responded by pulling his gun, handcuffing him and throwing him to the ground, causing him to hit his head, the suit said. Norton was taken to the hospital for treatment of his injuries before he was charged.

Another officer pinned his feet to his back before Norton was dragged to a patrol car, he said.

No video was made of the arrest but one of the officers made an audio recording, which was posted on YouTube. It was unclear why the officer made the recording.

Norton was charged with delaying an officer. The case went to trial and ended in a hung jury.

In his federal lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Norton is seeking $700,000 to cover back and head injuries as well as punitive damages.

The suit names the city and the police department, claiming inadequate training in the use of force and to prevent racial profiling.

Assistant City Attorney John Fritsch denied the allegations Monday. He said the city would be filing a written response to Norton’s claims.

Acting Police Chief Hank Schreeder could not be reached Monday or Tuesday for comment.

Meanwhile, Norton, who says he’s been pulled over at least six times and never received a ticket, said officers show a “deliberate indifference” to constitutional rights.

He said he served prison time from 2004 to 2007 for drug offenses but was not on parole at the time and didn’t break traffic laws.

“The bottom line is, they are racially profiling me,” Norton said.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or On Twitter @ppayne.


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Sonoma County D.A. clears officers in 4 separate deaths

One man stabbed his estranged wife near the Windsor Town Green and lunged at officers with a knife.

Another fired a high-powered rifle at family members and deputies in Guerneville.

Still another barricaded himself in a Santa Rosa home, high on methamphetamine. A fourth man struggled with Healdsburg police attempting to arrest him on child-sex charges.

All died in officer-involved incidents in Sonoma County over the past 18 months. In every case, the officers acted lawfully, without criminal liability, District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced Monday.

“Each case stands alone,” said Ravitch, who posted detailed reports on all four deaths on her website. “If the public looks at the summaries … they will see each case was an unfortunate situation.”

Ravitch’s findings, based in part on reports from investigating agencies, come amid a national debate about police use of deadly force.

They follow by about six months her controversial decision not to prosecute Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus in the killing of 13-year-old Andy Lopez of Santa Rosa. Gelhaus shot the teenager seven times after reportedly mistaking an airsoft BB gun Lopez was carrying for an AK-47 rifle.

The officers are the latest to be cleared. In dozens of fatal incidents in the county dating to 1995, no officer has been prosecuted. There have been 12 such “critical” incidents since Ravitch took office in 2011, a department spokesman said.

Monday’s announcement covered deaths that occurred before and after Lopez was killed.

The first case involved Urbano Morales, 48, who was shot to death by Windsor police on June 8, 2013, after officers said he attacked his estranged wife at the Town Green, stabbing her multiple times. The attack came after a period of “bizarre and threatening behavior” following the couple’s separation, Ravitch said in a written statement.

Morales refused to show his hands when confronted by police a short distance away and appeared to be stabbing himself, Ravitch said. An officer shot him with a stun gun but it had no effect, she said.

At some point Morales lunged at one of the officers, she said. Two officers responded by shooting him with handguns, killing him, she said.

An investigation revealed the officers fired 18 shots.

Ravitch determined the officers’ action were lawful because Morales was violent, had just hurt his wife and failed to obey police commands in a high-traffic area, she said.

Also, she said, one of the officers was in fear of his life.

In the second incident, Christopher Eric Augustin, 37, of Palm Springs died of a heart attack Oct. 16, 2013, while struggling with Santa Rosa police attempting to restrain him.

The officers had been called to a home after reports that Augustin had become physically violent with an occupant and barricaded himself in a bedroom.

Augustin resisted, kicking and biting officers, Ravitch said. Then, suddenly, he became “non-responsive” while being restrained. An autopsy found Augustin suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest while in a state of “excited delirium” brought on by methamphetamine use.

Ravitch said no batons or stun guns were used by officers. The only strike was to Augustin’s shoulder blade to get control of his arm, she said.

Wayne Allen Courtright Jr., 58, of Guerneville was the third death to be investigated. Ravitch said he had been drinking heavily Nov. 18, 2013, when he threatened to kill his wife, telling her “he had bullets with her name on them.”

He fired his rifle in the direction of a sheriff’s substation, where his wife and daughter had fled.

Deputies and a SWAT team surrounded his house. When Courtright fired his gun in their direction, they responded by shooting back. Two deputies shot eight times, hitting him once in the chest. The case was investigated by Petaluma police. Ravitch found the deputies’ actions were justified.

In the last case, Everardo Romo, 43, died from a single gunshot to the head on Feb. 14 . Romo, a suspect in a child-molestation investigation, was found hiding in a Healdsburg home by the occupants, Ravitch said.

When officers arrived they could not get control of Romo’s hands, which he kept under his body.

Then they heard a muffled “pop.” Officers found a pistol beneath him that was later determined to have fired the fatal bullet into his head. The gun did not belong to the residents or the officers, and no other shots were fired, Ravitch concluded.

Police at the time said the wound was self-inflicted.

All the investigations were done under a county protocol to insure impartiality. The rulings, made in consultation with the families of the dead men, were to be posted on the district attorney’s website.

Ravitch said her office reviews these incidents only to determine whether there is criminal liability. It did not review department policies or whether any of the officers violated conditions of employment.

Rulings are pending on two recent fatal incidents, she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or On Twitter @ppayne.

Source: Press Democrat

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Charges of Resisting Arrest Dropped Against Esa Wroth

Sonoma County prosecutors Wednesday dismissed a resisting-arrest and assault case against a 28-year-old Forestville man who was subdued by several jail officers and shocked with a Taser multiple times on the jail floor as he was being booked on a drunken-driving charge.

Esa Wroth entered a no contest plea to a misdemeanor drunken-driving charge and was given credit for time served by Commissioner Jennifer Dollard.

The plea deal came as trial was set to begin on 11 charges, including a DUI and two felonies: resisting arrest and assaulting a correctional officer.

A recording of the incident was posted online by Wroth’s defense attorney, who characterized the behavior as “horrible brutality.”

The 29-minute recording, taken by a jail employee, shows Wroth being punched and kicked by correctional deputies, who also shocked him numerous times with a Taser in an effort, they say, to subdue him.

Jail officials said the level of force was appropriate given Wroth’s aggressive behavior when he was receiving a routine medical check upon entry to the jail. They said the intoxicated man ripped off a blood-pressure cuff, pulled a pulse monitor from his finger and attempted to bowl over a nurse.

Deputies tackled him and were preparing to put him in a restraint chair when he began physically resisting them, the department said.

Wroth pulled out the Taser’s barbs, tried to grab a Taser and attempted to bite a deputy, the department said. Ultimately, Wroth was restrained without serious injury to himself or deputies, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Wroth’s attorney, Izaak Schwaiger of Santa Rosa, claimed “absolute victory” with the dismissal, vowing to file a federal lawsuit against the county within a day for alleged violations of Wroth’s civil rights.

“They have an awful lot of explaining to do,” Schwaiger said, adding that he believed media coverage pressed prosecutors into dismissing the case — in addition to the current protests about perceived police brutality in cases nationwide.

“They didn’t want to be cast in the same light,” he said.

He said there were “a ton of felonies committed — but none by my client.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell said the resisting arrest and assault case — filed as a felony by Schwaiger’s current law partner, former prosecutor Victoria Shanahan — couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a Sonoma County jury.

In the end, Wroth pleaded to a charge that can be used as a prior DUI if he is arrested again, Staebell said.

“We looked at the totality of the circumstances and felt we were not going to be able to prove to 12 people that he resisted law enforcement,” he said. “We looked at the climate of the day.”

Wroth maintained he was a passenger, not the driver. He told authorities the driver was a friend of his, whom he didn’t name, and who ran off after their vehicle crashed on Jan. 2, 2013. The pair had been out drinking at the Forestville Club.

It would have been difficult to prove Wroth was driving, Staebell said, and much of the alleged resisting and assault occurred before the recording began.

“That’s a central issue,” Staebell said.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, staff followed standard practice in recording the video when Wroth became physically aggressive.

Wroth had a blood-alcohol level of 0.21 percent —almost three times the legal limit — about three hours after his arrest. Staebell said he continued to be resistant to treatment at the hospital.

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or

Source Press Democrat

 November 19, 2014 Story

Esa Wroth was wasted. He doesn’t dispute that.

But the 28-year-old Forestville man says he didn’t deserve what happened last year when he was arrested in Sonoma County on drunken-driving charges.

While he was being booked into the jail, the solar company consultant says, correctional deputies slammed him to the ground for no good reason. They punched and kicked him and shot him 20 times with electric stun guns.

The incident was captured in part in a 29-minute video that Wroth’s lawyer said is an alarming example of police brutality. It will be played next month to jurors when Wroth is tried on suspicion of assaulting a correctional deputy, resisting arrest and driving while intoxicated.

Warning: Half-hour long video contains profanity

“It’s tantamount to torture,” Wroth’s lawyer, Izaak Schwaiger, said Tuesday. “From beginning to end, they are beating him. It’s just brutal.”

Jail officials said the level of force was appropriate given Wroth’s aggressive behavior when he was receiving a routine medical check upon entry to the jail.

Assistant Sheriff Randall Walker on Wednesday said the intoxicated man ripped off a blood-pressure cuff, pulled a pulse monitor from his finger and then backed into a nurse, attempting to bowl the nurse over.

Deputies tackled him to the floor and were preparing to put him in a restraint chair when he began physically resisting them, Walker said.

Deputies punched Wroth and shot him with Taser guns to get him to stop but he continued to struggle, Walker said.

At one point he pulled out the electric barbs, tried to grab a Taser gun and attempted to bite a deputy, Walker said.

Deputies responded with more control “strikes” and Taser shots, Walker said.

“Their actions are all reactions to his physical resistance,” Walker said.

Ultimately, Wroth was restrained without injury to himself or deputies, Walker said.

Prosecutors charged Wroth with felony assault on a correctional officer, but a judge reduced the allegations to misdemeanors after a preliminary hearing.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell declined to comment, citing the pending trial.

The night of the incident, Jan. 2, 2013, Wroth had been drinking at the Forestville Club.

When it was time to go home, Wroth maintains he handed his keys to an unnamed friend, who got behind the wheel and drove the two of them away from the club.

Somewhere on River Road, the friend crashed the car and fled on foot, Schwaiger said. Wroth stayed behind and was arrested on drunken-driving charges. Tests showed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.21 percent — or more than twice the legal limit — about three hours after his arrest.

During booking, correctional deputies found Wroth was not following instructions and knocked him to the floor, Schwaiger said.

The video, made by a jail employee, begins as Wroth is being held face-down on the ground. It does not show what led up to the altercation. Walker said staff followed standard practice in recording the video when Wroth became physically aggressive. Schwaiger obtained the video from prosecutors.

It opens as four deputies are on his back and legs, trying to put shackles around his waist. Wroth complains, tries to roll over and is punched repeatedly in the back. As the struggle continues, deputies pull Taser guns and shoot him, shouting commands to stop resisting.

“Quit moving!” a deputy yells. “You’re going to get it again, you hear me?”

More Taser shots are fired and Wroth screams. A nurse is called when an electric barb gets stuck in his skin.

Near the end of the video, he is placed on a stretcher and carried outside to a waiting ambulance.

Schwaiger said he counted 20 independent Taser shots, 16 punches, a kick and two “knee drops.” Wroth had bruises covering his body, a black eye and wrist pain that he still feels today.

“He looks like he did a couple of rounds with Rocky,” the lawyer said.

Walker said Wroth suffered a face injury in the crash. Fights with drunk people are common, but the number of Taser deployments on Wroth was unusual, Walker said.

Still, he said he found that deputies did nothing wrong.

“Force doesn’t look good,” Walker said. “But he’s not injured.”

Wroth faces up to three years in jail if he is convicted at trial, set for Dec. 11.

Schwaiger said he is troubled by the fact that the video was reviewed by jail officials who found deputies acted within department regulations. He said military jailers in Iraq are held to higher standards.

“If this happens in a war zone, it is a war crime,” Schwaiger said. “If it happens in Sonoma County, it’s according to policy.”

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or

Source Press Democrat:

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3rd inmate in 3 weeks found dead in a Sonoma County jail

An inmate booked in the Sonoma County Jail died in custody Saturday in the third death at a county detention facility in as many weeks, authorities said.
Rhonda Jean Everson, 50, a transient who frequents west Sonoma County, was arrested Friday on suspicion of drug possession and felony probation violation, said Sgt. Cecile Focha, a Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.
Focha said deputies found Everson in possession of heroin and methamphetamine at the time of her arrest, and the suspect even tried to bring some of the drugs into the jail. After a screening by medical staff, deputies took Everson to a special housing unit at the Main Adult Detention Facility that focuses on inmates who are going through withdrawal.
On Saturday morning, deputies found Everson awake and checked on her twice while making their rounds, Focha said. But at 9:30 p.m., a nurse doling out medication found Everson unresponsive in a cell. Paramedics tried to revive her, but she was ultimately pronounced dead at 9:49 p.m., deputies said.
Authorities said the circumstances surrounding the death were unclear, but there was no sign of injury or foul play. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office referred the case to Marin County investigators, Focha said. She did not say why the case was being investigated by Marin County officials.
Detectives with the Marin County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately return phone calls.
On Oct. 8, deputies found Diego Armando DePaz, 31, of Santa Rosa dead in his bunk at the North County Correctional Facility. Jail medical staff performed a physical and mental screening on DePaz, who had no obvious issues when he surrendered two days before to begin serving a 15-day sentence for a 2013 conviction for driving under the influence, Focha said.
Deputies said there was no obvious cause of death and the Marin County coroner is performing an autopsy.
On Sept. 28., Petaluma slaying suspect Mikol Wayne Stewart, 37, of Santa Rosa committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell at the Sonoma County Jail.
Stewart was being held without bail after he was arrested Sept. 11 in connection with the slaying of Arturo Hinojosa Jr., 49, who was found shot to death at his home on Suncrest Hill Drive, police said.
Stewart’s death was the first suicide in a Sonoma County jail since 2013, when an inmate cut his wrists, Sheriff’s Sgt. Shannon McAlvain told The Chronicle last month.
Evan Sernoffsky is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @EvanSeroffsky


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Memorial Rally for Andy Lopez and Stop Police Brutality Day 10/22/14 at SSU

The SSU Sociology Social Justice and Activism Club is holding a memorial rally for Andy Lopez and Stopping Police Brutality Day October 22 at noon in the Library Quad. Shelby Wade, ( Club President invites community people to attend and speak at the memorial. The Club has arranged a public address system, music, and several community, student and faculty speakers. All are welcomed to help inform SSU students about what happened a year ago and what needs to be done to prevent this again.

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Diego Armando De Paz, Age 31, Dies in North County Facility

The family of a Santa Rosa man found dead in the Sonoma County Jail said this week they believe he may have gone into shock when he didn’t receive prescribed medications for several health conditions, including diabetes.

Diego Armando De Paz, 31, was serving a 15-day sentence related to a drunken driving conviction when he was found unresponsive in his North County Detention Center bed last Wednesday.

He died despite efforts to revive him.

Jail officials were awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine the cause of his death. An investigation is ongoing, Sonoma County sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said Monday.

But Diana De Paz said she thinks jail officials are somehow to blame for her brother’s death. She said he took injections three times a day for diabetes and was on pain medication for injuries from a car crash eight years ago. He also was prescribed pills for depression, she said.

She said it’s possible he wasn’t given the correct medicine or the right amount and died because of it.

“We’re going to do our best to find out what happened and find who’s responsible,” Diana De Paz said.

She said the family has hired a lawyer and is considering a wrongful death lawsuit.

Meanwhile, funeral services for Diego De Paz are planned for Friday.

The 2000 Elsie Allen High School graduate leaves behind four sons and was pursuing a lifelong dream of opening an auto body shop, his sister said.

He was enrolled in a Sacramento vocational school and was a full-time caretaker for his mother, she said.

Two years ago he was recognized by Sheriff Steve Freitas for catching a man who had just sexually assaulted a pregnant woman along a Santa Rosa street, his sister said.

De Paz was driving near the scene of the 2011 attack when he saw the man later identified as Jack Caratachea on top of the woman who was eight months’ pregnant, his sister said.

He jumped out of the car and ran after the man, holding him down until police arrived. He testified at the trial, and Caratachea was later sentenced to a life prison term.

De Paz helped out despite the fact that he was still recovering from two broken legs he suffered in a 2006 head-on collision with a drunken driver, his sister said.

The crash happened as he and his wife and their baby were traveling along Guerneville Road. His sister said he steered his car away from the car at the last minute so he would take the brunt of the impact, saving his wife and son. The driver of the other car was killed.

He underwent six surgeries, had steel rods inserted in his legs and was on pain medication until his death, she said.

“He was an overall awesome guy,” his sister said. “He was very caring and he used his power to help whenever needed.”

But he had problems, too. He was cited last year for drunken driving and sentenced to jail time. He violated probation by driving and was ordered to serve another 15 days, his sister said.

He was two days into the sentence when he was discovered unresponsive in his bed. Deputies tried to revive him but they couldn’t get him to start breathing again.

His sister said it was strange because he had called his mother the night before and seemed fine.

She said the family desperately wants to know how he died.

“We want to know because when the kids are older they are going to want to know what happened,” she said. “And we don’t want anyone else to go through this.”

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or On Twitter @ppayne.

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Santa Rosa PD Gets Pay Raise of 9.5% Over 3 Years

The Santa Rosa City Council signed off on new three-year contracts with its 165 police officers and public safety managers Tuesday following a vigorous debate about whether the city could afford to pay raises totaling 9.5 percent.

The majority of the council felt the increases were justified given the higher pension costs the officers and managers had agreed to shoulder and seemed sustainable given the city’s improving economy.

“Our police force is the envy of everybody in the North Bay,” Mayor Scott Bartley said. “It comes at a cost, and I think it’s a reasonable cost.”

But council members Gary Wysocky and Julie Combs, as they have for similar contracts, argued forcefully that the council was recklessly inking multi-year deals with raises that the city’s financial projections show it cannot afford.

After briefly enjoying a surplus, the city will likely be pushed back into deficits next year because of the cost of new labor contracts, Wysocky said.

“That to me is a huge alarm bell, and it should be for anyone thinking about the sustainability of the organization,” he said.

Bartley, Jake Ours, Robin Swinth and Erin Carlstrom voted in favor of the contract, Wysocky voted against it, and Combs abstained.

In exchange for the raises, the new contracts call for the city’s 135 police officers and 30 police managers to pay 4 percent more toward their pension costs over the term of the contract. That will result in net raises of 5.5 percent, or 1.8 percent per year.

The new contracts also increase uniform allowances by $300 per year and vest allowances by $50 per year, combine the vision and dental plans, align the city’s domestic partner benefits with those of the state and increase slightly the rate at which vacation time is accrued.

The total cost of the new contracts is estimated at $754,000 for the remainder of this year, and $4.9 million over the three-year life of the contracts.

The contracts continue a pattern in recent years of granting raises to workers while requiring them to pay a higher percentage of their pension costs. By the end of the three-year contract, officers and managers will be paying 13 percent of salary toward pensions, more than is required under state law.

Shifting those costs onto workers is projected to help stabilize the ever-increasing annual contribution to the California Public Employee Retirement System. Instead of paying 36 percent of salary to CalPERS, the city will only be paying 32 percent by the third year, Human Resources Director Fran Elm said.

Tim Hughes, president of the Police Officers Association, thanked the council and assured them the contract would help the city attract “exceptional police officer candidates” while retaining the existing force.

Several medical leaves and unfilled positions mean officers often work overtime, Acting Chief Hank Schreeder said. Recruiting new police candidates is challenging right now because lots of departments are hiring “after a lull,” he said. The department will also need to staff up to begin policing the Roseland neighborhood once the annexation of that area is complete, he said.

Wysocky suggested that the 9.5 percent increase over three years might embolden other employee groups to demand more from the city, but Employee Relations Manager Paul Carroll disagreed.

“This specific contract doesn’t really push any boundaries in term of other raises that other units have received,” he said.

But Combs questioned the long-term implications of giving raises to cover employees’ pension costs, noting that future retirement payments will be based on those higher salaries. She, too, said she was worried about the city’s financial “sustainability.”

“These actions, along with other contracts that we’ve agreed to and our total budget, tie the hands of the next council while moving it into debt,” she said.

But Ours expressed confidence in the city’s financial future, suggesting that some of the studies upon which Wysocky was relying were “not thought-out.”

“We’ve looked at what the future is going to hold, and I have no doubt that we’re going to be able to pay our obligations,” Ours said.

Carlstrom, an attorney in private practice, said she felt the debate reflected a “pitting of the working class against itself.” Recalling her own father’s resentments over the generous compensation for public employees, Carlstrom suggested the opposition of some council members was rooted in pension envy.

“I’m not going to pit myself against somebody who has elected to come work for the city because you get a pension and I don’t,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or On Twitter @srcitybeat.


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DA says Gelhaus “was lawfully acting in defense of himself or others”

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday that it will not file criminal charges against a sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez.

District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a statement that investigators concluded Deputy Erick Gelhaus “fired his weapon in response to what he honestly and reasonably believed was an imminent threat of death to himself or others.

“As such, he was lawfully acting in defense of himself or others, and no basis for seeking criminal charges exists,” Ravitch said in the statement.

The finding was revealed in an email announcing a 2 p.m. press conference at which Ravitch intended to explain her findings. Moments after the email was sent, staff with the District Attorney’s Office sent another email recalling the prior announcement, indicating they had not intended to report the result of the investigation until the press conference.

For five months, District Attorney investigators have been looking into whether Gelhaus broke the law when he shot Lopez seven times during an Oct. 22 encounter in southwest Santa Rosa.


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29 drivers were cited for being unlicensed or having a suspended license, 4 DUI suspects apprehended

Santa Rosa DUI checkpoint nets four arrests
Mon, Jun 2, 2014
Four people suspected of driving drunk were caught this weekend at a DUI checkpoint in Santa Rosa, police said.

The four were among 816 drivers screened by officers at two checkpoints Saturday night, one on College Avenue near Morgan Street and later on Steele Lane near Cleveland Avenue.

Sgt. Mike Numainville said in a press release that no drivers stopped appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

But 29 drivers were cited for being unlicensed or having a suspended license.

One driver was found to be wanted on a warrant and was taken into custody.

The suspected drunken drivers ranged from 25 years to 61. Three were from Santa Rosa and one was a San Diego resident.

Officers worked the checkpoints from 9 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday.

Grants from the California Office of Traffic Safety helped fund the effort.

Source: Press Democrat

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