The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Student unfairly stopped by Sonoma County police

    issue 1 izaac limon .jpg

    Shortly after Sonoma State student Izaac Limón turned in his last final of the Fall 2020 semester, he was accosted by police officers employed by the California Department of Developmental Services at the Sonoma Developmental Center in Eldridge, CA. 

    Limon said “the entire encounter happened within 15 minutes, and he “wouldn’t have expected anything to happen that day…it was just like a normal day.” 

    While Limón was on a walk with a friend, an unmarked black car pulled up behind them, and two white male police officers got out of the car, and demanded that they put their hands up. Limón said he was then handcuffed by one officer, while the other officer stood by, talking with Limón’s friend and said, “Don’t worry, we’re not as rough as Sacramento police.” 

    Limón, originally from Ventura County, CA, is majoring in psychology, with a minor in queer studies. On campus, he is an intern at the HUB Cultural Center at Sonoma State, an office which works to “cultivate meaningful conversation and build community within and between diverse cultures.” Limón is also the president of the Queer Students Alliance.

     According to Limón, the officers refused to answer questions about the reason for stopping him and his friend, and would not give him their names or badge numbers. Limón also expressed that the two officers were not wearing masks, and would not allow him and his friend to put on their own masks. 

    Limón was told to put his hands up, and he was handcuffed by one of the men; the officer then looked through Limón’s pockets, and found his wallet, phone, and mask. After learning that Limón was a student at Sonoma State by finding a student identification card in his wallet, Limón stated that the officer was confused, but changed his demeanor and let him go. 

    Limón commented that he believes the officers “changed their demeanor once realizing I am a SSU student because they are taught that young males who are POC [people of color] are criminals. There’s an issue of white supremacy and racism here in Sonoma county and until it is addressed, we will have more of these incidents of harassment.”

    After the incident, Limón started a petition on which circulated on social media over winter break. The petition asked for greater accountability from Sonoma County officers, and has over 786 supporters to date. 

    Many supporters commented on their reasons for signing the petition. One supporter said “They (the officers) need to own up to their actions, apologize, offer restitution, and change policy to ensure this does not happen again. The wide gap between how police, as professionals, should act and the reality of the violent terror they enacted here shows us all why we need to keep radically rethinking what “policing” is actually doing in our society.” 

    Another supporter commented that they signed because, “Students of color and other marginalized backgrounds should be able to enjoy themselves within Sonoma County without the fear of being targeted.”

    Two days after the initial incident, On Dec. 18, Limón filed a complaint with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, and the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO).

    Limón believes that the two men who stopped him, whom he has positively identified through pictures, work for the sheriff’s office. The Sheriff’s Office however claims that the two men were not on duty the day of the incident. 

    The Office of Law Enforcement and Support (OLES) at the Sonoma Developmental Center gave a comment about their officers, the purpose of their office, and what they are doing to ensure transparency and accountability.

     According to a representative from OLES, the purpose of the office is to “ensure the safety and security of patients and residents within California’s state hospitals and developmental centers through contemporaneous oversight, investigations and collaborative partnerships to achieve systemic improvements in policies, procedures and partnerships.” 

    Unfortunately, the department is not able to release specific information pertaining to ongoing investigations, such as this case. The Office of Law Enforcement and Support stated that they support ongoing transparency and accountability for their employees by publishing a semi-annual report which “outlines its independent review and assessment of law enforcement and employee misconduct at the California developmental centers.” 

    This is not the first time that Sonoma County police have been accused of abusing their power, by violating the rights of individuals stopped by officers. In July 2020, The Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights published a report detailing human rights violations by police against protestors. 

    The report included information about violations that were similar to the incident Limon faced, including: refusal to provide names and badge numbers, refusal to honor social distancing guidelines during COVID-19, and the unnecessary use of force. The report was developed by the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights in an effort to demand accountability from police and investigate human rights violations at the hands of police in Santa Rosa, and other parts of Sonoma County. 

    However, these violations did not stop after the report was published; Limón believes that he was unfairly stopped and questioned by police and that his rights were violated by the officers refusing to provide their names and badge numbers, and refusing to follow social-distancing guidelines. 

    Since this case is currently under investigation by the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach, there are no details at this time about what potential sanctions, if any, the officers involved in the incident could face. 

    Limón hopes that this incident, and the corresponding investigation will lead to “some sort of explanation and or resolution to the treatment I faced by law enforcement in Sonoma County. There are many uncomfortable truths here in this county and it is up for the community to get informed and involved.”

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