Close to Home: Effort to recall Sheriff Freitas will move ahead — here’s why
On March 24, members of the Community Action Coalition served a notice of intention to recall Sheriff Steve Freitas from office. Just hours later the sheriff announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018.
Nonetheless, the Community Action Coalition will persevere in its effort to remove a sheriff who has failed repeatedly to fulfill his stated mission to provide “professional, firm, fair and compassionate public safety services” to our communities. Under his leadership, this Sheriff’s Office has consistently discriminated against people of color, the homeless and their encampments and the mentally ill. Excessive use of force is pervasive.
The 2013 killing of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by Deputy Erick Gelhaus fanned deep-seated resentments of local Latino communities, which had already endured years of racial profiling, humiliation and senseless killings by law enforcement. After the sheriff reassigned Gelhaus back to street patrol, one Latina from Santa Rosa said, “The message was clear: you are faceless, nameless, voiceless, and we don’t care about you.”
Sentiments swelled again last year when the sheriff promoted Gelhaus. “He is highly qualified and will represent the Sheriff’s Office well,” Freitas said. “If I didn’t believe that, he wouldn’t be promoted."