Meaningless Police Oversight Charter Amendment Recommended for November Ballot

by on April 21, 2016 · 1 comment

in Civil Rights, Culture, History, Organizing, Politics, San Diego

Sherri Lightner chris stone

San Diego City Council president Sherri Lightner. Photo by Chris Stone

Council Committee Ignores Community Alliance’s Call for Subpoena Powers

By Hugh Moore  

The San Diego City Council Charter Review Committee met yesterday, Wednesday, April 20 and voted to submit for approval to the full City Council a Charter Amendment recommended by the Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

The recommended amendment changes the name of the Citizens Review Board on Police Practices (CRB), mandates that all police involved deaths be reviewed by the board, and gives the Mayor and City Council joint authority over the board.

However, these are only cosmetic changes, according to Martha Sullivan – member of Women Occupy of San Dieg – and do nothing to improve the CRB’s ability to actually investigate a complaint about the police department.

Sullivan, speaking to the committee in opposition to the charter amendment recommendation, stated that the only real reform would include giving the CRB subpoena power and the ability to hire independent investigators and independent legal counsel.  About 15 local citizens also spoke in opposition to the recommended Charter Amendment.

The Charter Review Committee was urged by 27 community organizations to align the CRB’s powers with that of the Ethics Commission, which has jurisdiction over the conduct of City elected officials, candidates for such offices and City employees – except the SDPD. Last year, City taxpayers paid out $9.4 million in court awards and claims for misconduct by SDPD officers

The current CRB already reviews all police involved deaths so the proposed Charter Amendment only codifies existing practice.  Giving the City Council joint authority with the Mayor over this board in the Charter will give the Council standing to effect changes in how the CRB operates, but given turnover on the Council after the November election meaningful reform of the CRB will be delayed.

Changing the name of the CRB to Community Review Board was the only thing in the Ballot Proposal endorsed by the 27 community organizations that the Charter Review Committee voted to forward to the full Council.  A budget for and the ability to independent investigators and legal counsel with subpoena powers is not in the ballot measure.

The current Charter Amendment, lacking the enforcement measures suggested by local organizations, was proposed by Councilmember Todd Gloria, seconded by Councilmember Myrtle Cole and passed unanimously by the Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee, which includes Chair Marti Emerald and Councilmember Chris Cate.

Councilmembers Emerald and Cate also sit on the Charter Review Committee, along with its Chair Council President Sherri Lightner and Councilmember Mark Kersey.

You can view the entire consideration of Item 1 of the Charter Review Committee Agenda here:

Editor: Here is the Open Letter submitted by the community alliance to the Charter Committee.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Stephanie Jennings April 25, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Thanks Hugh for this concise summary! Years of work has gone into this grassroots effort and the activists appreciate the OB Rag keeping tabs on the story. The fact is – a great deal of community engagement is needed on this and many community issues. Activists bring ideas and energy to the process of making our society work. However the doggedness required to see an effort through is daunting for activists who have jobs and families and generally want a life. If the system were more open and accessible we’d all be better for it. What a cool place San Diego would be if we had a different view of the peoples involvement in their government. Late night council meetings, district council members going to work in their district instead of downtown, a process for community members with ideas to bring the to fruition through city government instead of despite city government. I bet there are lots of problems we could solve if we started to explore new ways to do the peoples business.


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