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The Final Fig Leaf Falls (CPRB)

The Final Fig Leaf Falls


by Nuz

Last week, the Santa Cruz City Council
whacked the Citizen Police Review
Board in a 7-0 vote that left local
progressives worrying what political
direction our town is headed.
“This does not bode well for progressive
politics,” said ex-Mayor Chris Krohn.
“Nowhere that I know of is citizen review
going away. Citizens want someone to be
there, besides the police, if they have a
Formed in 1994 to handle allegations of
police misconduct, the CPRB agreed in
over 90 percent of cases with the findings
of the police, which led to its own
supporters calling it “a fig leaf” that was
“structured to be a rubber stamp.”
And while SCPD Chief Steve Belcher
claimed that serious discipline is typically
not the result of citizen complaint but
issues that police supervisors bring up,
CPRB chair (now in exile) Mark
Halfmoon complained that the city never
gave the board any power to seriously
address police abuse.
At last week’s council meeting, a suited
Krohn showed up to read from a letter
also signed by Celia Scott, Ben Rice,
Bernice Belton, Jeffrey Smedberg, Ann
Simonton, Marvin Kaplan, Sandy Brown
and John Malkin.
“The current auditor model now before the
city council has not been sufficiently
assessed by the greater Santa Cruz
community. If we are to move to a
different model of police review, it must
be a community-based model which offers
ample opportunities for our residents to
interface in that dialogue,” Krohn read.
An emotional Halfmoon said he felt
insulted and disrespected that the council
had not met with CPRB members or
returned calls before the cutsa situation
for which the council apologized
But they did not respond to Halfmoon’s
suggestion that butchering the CPRB was
a racially motivated move (he and vice
chair Brent Fouse are both black, which
is a first in CPRB history), though Mayor
Emily Reilly later clarified that the push
to disband the board predated Halfmoon’s
“We’ve been talking since 2000 about
changing the board to some other form,
and I’m encouraging CPRB members to
continue giving me perspectives and
information on what would work,” said
Reilly, adding that the model that will
replace the board is still in transition.
“We have rescinded the ordinance about
citizen review, which is different from
community oversight, but there is
definitely a need for the council to remain
involved with police policy.”
One frequent criticism of the CPRB was
that it was inundated with “frivolous
complaints,” but as a freshly executed
Halfmoon told Nüz, “A complaint, by
nature, can’t be frivolous. You need to
hear it out to assess whether it merits
more attention.”
Ex-CPRB member Dan Alper agrees.
“For the person the situation happened
to, the complaint is serious. The person
the city has chosen as auditor, Bob
Aarenson, is a good guy, but as an MIT
grad and Stanford lawyer, is he going to
be sensitive to the people of Santa Cruz?”
Reilly hopes the City Council will become
the CPRB’s new ear.
“That’s why we are calling it an
independent auditor/City Council model at
this point. If people have a complaint,
they need to make it formally, but the
city can do a better job of encouraging
people to give feedback. I call that
customer service,” she says.
But ex-CPRB chair John Malkin, who was
instrumental in creating the board nine
years ago, believes “progressives have
lost a round in a political battle with
people who are armed and command 30
percent of the city’s total budget. The
police never wanted this board. Now they
have succeeded in making it not exist.
Had the board been seen as necessity,
ways would have been found to fund it.”
As for the budget, whacking the CPRB
saves $60,000, with $30,000 of expenses
retained to pay auditor Aarenson. An
estimated $15,000 in police overtime for
the CPRB has not yet been formally cut.
And this is just round one of the budget
cuts ...


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Time for a Reality Check

I think it appropriate at this time to encourage everyone with an interest in the now defunct CPRB to spend a little time reading the minutes from previous meetings, especially from 2002. These minutes can be easily accessed at this site from a previous "story". While these minutes can be tedious, they are illuminating. Recent characterizations by Becky Johnson about her own view of "police oversight" and the reality of the ordinance itself are also available. The two "realities" could not be much further apart. It will also be made quite clear to those who are unfamiliar with the current issue that a couple of political appointees and less than a handful of well known malicious malcontents attempted to hijack the CPRB simply because they hate police officers or anyone else whose work requires that citizens be held accountable for their behavior. This conclusion is, in my opinion, inescapable. There is a need for civilian oversight of our city police. Our ELECTED OFFICIALS will address this issue fairly and effectively. Please trust their judgement and committment to our community.


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