Jill Ravitch and Stephan Passalacqua, the candidates for Sonoma County district attorney, started adding some details to their claims in their debate Monday in Santa Rosa.

Ravitch said the “loss of confidence” in local enforcement stems from Passalacqua’s handling of officer-involved fatality investigations. She said the reports are taking up to 22 months to complete, adding that “we owe it to the people on the streets who wear badges” to act faster. She said she might scrap the system of investigations by outside police agencies followed by a review by the district attorney in favor of an immediate review by the D.A.

Ravitch, by the way, has endorsements from all but one of the unions that represent local police and sheriff’s deputies.

It never hurts to have the cops on your side in an election, but Passalacqua’s rejoinder may play well in Sonoma County, where officer-involved shootings have caused a great deal of public unease, especially some high-profile cases involving mental health issues.

Passalacqua pointed out that there were 17 officer-involved fatalities – a figure that includes jail deaths – in 2007 and 2008. He attributed a drop-off to one in 2009 to stepped-up training of local law enforcement officers and also said, “We don’t rush to judgment on these kind of matters. We have to be fair to the family of the victim. We have to be cognizant of the community’s concerns and the officer, too.”

He also reached out to progressives – a significant bloc of the Sonoma County electorate, though their numbers may be smaller in an off-year June election with no major Democratic primary contests – with an emphasis on diversion and rehabilitation programs, comments about the failed state prison system and criticism of local law enforcement for impounding vehicles from illegal immigrants.

Ravitch, meanwhile, took on Passalacqua’s charge that she picked up support from the defense bar with “sweetheart deals.” That quote, delivered in response to fundraising reports in January, already boomeranged with angry letters to the paper demanding that he back it up. He didn’t respond to press inquiries about it in recent weeks, but she told the debate audience that it stemmed from a case filed by the Mendocino County district attorney – and produced a court docket to back her up. After the debate, he confirmed that it was the case but also told me that his original comment had been taken out of context. Score that one for Ravitch.

If you missed the debate, you can watch a tape of it at watchsonomacounty.com.

— Jim Sweeney