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Who is Policing the Police?

The Community Oversight Task Force took a deep look at police training in our community.  We were particularly interested to know what training the Sheriff’s deputies had in the months and years prior to the February 2020 incident resulting in the death of Sage Crawford.  It is our opinion that anyone who listened to the dispatch audios and watched Sheriff Moon’s car cam videos of the entire incident would have had a hard time determining that Sage Crawford was in a rational state of mind.  Those videos showed a distraught woman with two kids fearful that the police officers were going to take her children.  She had not committed a crime.  

The first issues is, why wasn’t the Sheriff’s new pilot program in operation?  This is the program where a County Behavioral Health expert and a Sheriff’s deputy work together in dealing with mental illness calls that has been functioning since February.  We learned the answer: the deputy was sick that day so the team was not called. We also learned the program operates only 4 days/week 10 hours each day.  What happens if a mental health crisis comes at midnight on a Saturday night?  Does Nevada County need a 24/7 “CAHOOTS” mobile crises team program that would take these calls away from Law Enforcement?  

The next question was why didn’t the Sheriff’s deputies exhibit any expertise in interactions with persons with mental illness?  Why was there no show of humanity or compassion? Why didn’t the Sheriff’s deputies utilize de-escalation techniques?  Why didn’t they use less than lethal force against her?  In our research, we learned that since 2017 the California Penal Code has mandated the “Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training” to develop and disseminate guidelines and training on:

  1. The cause and nature of mental illnesses and developmental disabilities.
  2. How to identify indicators of mental disability and how to respond appropriately in a variety of common situations.
  3. Conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques for potentially dangerous situations involving a person with a mental disability.
  4. Appropriate language usage when interacting with a person with a mental disability.
  5. Alternatives to lethal force when interacting with potentially dangerous persons with mental disabilities.

Yet, none of these techniques were followed in the matter of Sage Crawford, or of Gabriel Strickland, also shot and killed by police officers in 2019.

Then there was the matter of the Black Lives Matter Protest on August 9, 2020, in Nevada City.  The “investigative report” just came out concluding, the police officers present needed more training.  In our research, we learned that since July 1, 1999, all police officers in the State of California are to be trained in handling acts of civil disobedience, including (1) Reasonable use of force; (2) Dispute resolution.; (3) Nature and extent of civil disobedience, (5) Public and officer safety; (6) Documentation, report writing, and evidence collection.; and (7) Crowd control.

Anyone who attended the August 9 protest would attest to the complete lack of crowd control or de-escalation methods employed by law officers that day. Is there a question in anyone’s mind that the “counter-protestors” who appeared to disrupt the peace BLM protestors expressed hate for people of color?  If this was not their message, why were they there?  The events of that day, that we all watched on social media depicted angry men who tore banners, signs, and cell phones from protestors’ hands; we watched as they yelled “You don’t belong here;” and we watched as they wrestled protestors to the ground.  Even more disturbing, we watched as police officers appeared to side with and walk beside the counter-protestors.   Penal Code section 422.6 defines hate crimes and penalties.  That section states “(a) No person, whether or not acting under color of law, shall by force or threat of force, willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States….” Yet that is what we all saw that day.  None of the Grass Valley Police, the Nevada City Police, or the Sheriff’s deputies who were present at the protest saw it necessary to defend the counter-protestors attacks on the first Amendment of the Constitution, nor does the Nevada City investigative report even mention this.  

In the Community Oversight Task Force’s work we have also learned that virtually all of our law enforcement officers’ records are considered “personnel files” and not subject to public disclosure.  We can well understand the need for privacy of officer’s home addresses, medical records, even disciplinary records, but training certificates?  Wouldn’t it be directly in the interest of the public to know that our officers are properly trained in crowd control, de-escalation, mental illness, homelessness issues, and civil disobedience law? The incidents described above raise serious concerns about the level of training our officers are getting and the public has no way to determine the answer to those questions.

Our next Public Forum takes place Friday evening October 1, 2021, from 6-8 PM. You may attend in person at the Madelyn Helling Library Amphitheater (to the right of the Library), or via Zoom link at
Email the Nevada County Peace and Justice Center at if you would like to join the Community Oversight Task Force working group. 

Lorraine Reich
Peace and Justice Center of Nevada County
Community Oversight Task Force