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Paving Over the Grave of the Citizens Police Review Board

Tuesday afternoon sometime after 2 PM City Council will rubberstamp an out-of-town attorney as "auditor" to replace a Citizens Commission, the first in a probable series of Commission eliminations. The secret process will please police and their supporters but few else. It makes copwatching and public SCPD reform demands even more vital.
Item #17 on the afternoon City Council agenda Tuesday March 25th (coming up probably within half an hour after the Council's unusual start time of 2 PM) decrees the quick shuffle grave-desecration of the Citizens Police Review Board.

The CPRB, though weak and ineffectual through most of its 8 year life, had developed some spirit in the last year under the leadership of Mark Halfmoon and Brent Fousse, the African-American chair and vice-chair. It had recommended Council stop selective enforcement, develope SCPD rules around display and use of force (requiring reports that are not now required unless an arrest happens), deal with racial profiling (an endlessly delayed issue), and address issues like faulty IA investigations.

Advocates speculate that pressure from the SCPD resulted in quick (and initially illegal) abolition of the CPRB in January, without any meaningful public process or input from the CPRB itself under the pretext of "budget needs". (see Mark Halfmoon's article below )

The "auditor" proposal has had zero public input from the community. Nor have members of the CPRB been consulted in any meaningful way (other than police apologists Leff and King). The proposal suggests an auditor only needs to be made available 2 days before month. One person operating alone without citizen oversight or transparency, he'll get fully half the budget the CPRB previously got.

Though the auditor model has been rightly disparaged by San Jose activists as being an invitation to cover-up for and cooption by the police, even the limited achievements of the San Jose auditor have only happened with meaningful funding that allowed investigations. As Halfmoon and Fousse pointed out, this would have required a bigger budget than the existing CPRB budget, even at the smaller Santa Cruz level. Hence the claim that the CPRB was being eliminated to "save money" was exposed as being spurious, since even a "meaningful" auditor in the San Jose sense would have cost over $100,000 per year as compared to the $85,000 spent by the CPRB.

That the Police Officers Association was given the proposal to review but not the public is symptomatic of the sickness afflicting the City Council and through it, the community. The primary interest of Council is in pleasing the police here as well as maintaining a progressive facade.

In a time of increasing war and repression, where police squads are roaming the mall giving out "chalking" tickets in groups of 5, harassing homeless people who have no place to sleep with $162 camping tickets, and seizing homeless possessions as "abandoned" in order to punish those taking police badge numbers, this is not a wise choice.

The City Council Ad Hoc Budget Crisis Committee, chaired by Mayor Reilly, has refused to hold public or even open meetings. Declaring they are not required to post agendas because they are an "ad hoc" committee, they have met in secret, refusing to tell interested members of the public (including former CPRB members) where and when those meetings were. When confronted, Reilly informed me in late February that they had held a meeting, and said she would "think about" letting the public know when the next one was.

Noticably absent from the proposal is any public process for addressing issues of police policy--which is made the province of City Council and the City Manager. Also broken is the promise from Councilmember Ed Porter that any such auditor proposal would be fully discussed in an open subcommittee before it was rammed through as a fait accompli at City Council--which is the likely situation this Tuesday.

The fact that City Council is recreating the discredited Public Safety Committee, which proved even more resistant to any kind of public input and process when it was around in the early 90's, is not reassuring. This committee was previously dominated by the Police Chief. Indeed, it met in secret until Nick Whitehead and I risked arrest to demand it open its meeting in late 1990. Even that didn't help much.

The out-of-town attorney chosen to be auditor, Bob Aronson, has not contacted members of the activist community as he promised. The community needs to organize its own monitoring processes and reform proposals. It was a criminal grand jury in San Francisco that broke through the Blue Code of Silence up there and has resulted in the indictments of the bosses up there. We have a similar problem down here that cries out for redress.

The CPRB-in-exile proposal has not materialized, though there is some hope that former CPRB members will contribute to any activated Copwatch/police oversight project and use the benefit of their time and experience on the CPRB to recommend reforms of the SCPD itself.
Those who wish to contact Mark Halfmoon in support can reach him through his voicemail at 457-9754 X1788. Others who wish to join an active street-intake project can call HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) at 423-HUFF.

I encourage folks to post their experiences with police misconduct, their proposals for police reform, and their outrage at this latest Council cover-up, particularlly ominous as an illegal and immoral aggressvive war in Iraq prompts increasing protests and likely local repression.

The agenda report below follows.

--Robert Norse







CITY COUNCIL AGENDA REPORT
DATE: March 20, 2003
AGENDA OF: March 25, 2002
DEPARTMENT: City Council Ad Hoc Budget Crisis Committee
SUBJECT: INDEPENDENT POLICE AUDITOR AGREEMENT

RECOMMENDATION: That the City Council:

By motion, approve the form and structure of the City Council/Independent Police Auditor form of citizens police oversight;


Adopt a resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute an agreement with Robert H. Aaronson for police auditor services as defined in the attached proposed agreement;


Adopt a resolution transferring funds and amending the Fiscal Year 2002–2003 Budget in the amount of $10,000 to fund the agreement for the remainder of the current fiscal year; and


By motion, authorize Council appointment of a Public Safety Committee comprised of three Councilmembers with the charge to review public safety issues, including policies and procedures and the Independent Police Auditor function.




BACKGROUND: On January 21, 2003, as part of the mid-year budget reductions, the City Council directed that the citizens police oversight function be restructured. On January 28, 2003, the City Council directed the City Council Ad Hoc Budget Crisis Committee to develop the City Council/Independent Police Auditor model of police oversight and return to Council with recommendations.



DISCUSSION: The proposed structure incorporates components of the previous system and adds other components to increase police accountability, to provide continuity of citizen oversight, and to provide ongoing feedback to the Police Department, City Manager, and City Council regarding police policies and practices by establishing an Independent Police Auditor (Police Auditor) that is approved by and reports to the City Council. The proposed structure has been reviewed by the Police Officers’ Association.



INDEPENDENT POLICE AUDITOR

The following are the major features:

A. Review of Police Department Internal Affairs Investigations and Officer Involved Shootings

The Police Auditor will review all Police Department Internal Affairs investigations involving complaints against police officers which allege excessive or unnecessary force.

The Police Auditor will have the discretion to review or not review any other Police Department Internal Affairs investigations, including internally initiated allegations of misconduct against police officers and allegations submitted by the public.

The Police Auditor will have the right to attend Police Department Internal Affairs interviews of any citizen witness/complainant.

The Police Auditor may interview any civilian witnesses or complainants in the course of reviewing an investigation into any citizen complaint.

The Police Auditor may also make the request for further investigation to the Chief of Police or if needed to the City Manager.

The Police Auditor will review each Police Department investigation of any officer involved shooting when a Santa Cruz Police Officer discharges a handgun or department issued carbine and results in the injury or death of a person. Upon completion of the review, the Police Auditor will automatically report to the City Council at a closed session meeting of the City Council.


B. Review of Police Department Policies and Procedures

The Police Auditor will review Police Department policies and procedures as they become relevant in the course of reviewing investigations or in response to requests from the City Council, City Manager, and Chief of Police and recommend any changes.

C. Independent Investigation of Citizen Complaints

The Police Auditor may recommend to the City Council that an independent investigation of a citizen complaint involving allegations of excessive force or violation of civil rights be conducted.

D. Reports to the City Council

The Police Auditor will provide reports to the City Council as requested by the City Council or at the Police Auditor’s discretion. The Police Auditor will also provide periodic written public reports to the City Council, including an annual report detailing the past twelve months of activities. The report will include relevant statistics, analysis, and recommendations.

E. Access to the Santa Cruz Community

The Police Auditor will be accessible to the Santa Cruz Community via City provided e-mail, telephone, and office hours. The Police Auditor will be present in the City for a minimum of two days per month and provide for citizen complaints to be submitted to the Office of the City Clerk, the Police Auditor, and/or additional locations other than the Police Department.

PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE

The Ad Hoc Budget Crisis Committee also recognizes that there needs to be a forum for the Council, staff, and interested members of the community to discuss public safety issues, including both police and fire issues. Accordingly, it is recommended that a Public Safety Committee comprised of three Councilmembers be created by the Council. An important responsibility of the committee will be to review the Police Auditor function.

FISCAL IMPACT: The agreement for Police Auditor services anticipates expending a minimum of $3,000 per month and a maximum of $4,000 per month or $36,000 to $48,000 per year. For the remainder of the current fiscal year, $10,000 needs to be appropriated to cover the difference between what remains in the CPRB operating budget and what will be needed to fund the agreement, as well as minor costs for implementation (business cards, stationary, etc.). As with the previous system, additional independent investigations may require further expenditure approved by the City Council on a case-by-case basis.



Submitted by:

Emily Reilly Mayor
Scott Kennedy Vice Mayor
Tim Fitzmaurice Councilmember



M:\Agenda\Update\CM\City Council Meeting Reports\CM025-PoliceAuditorAgendaReport.doc

Attachments: Proposed Agreement Resolution Budget Adjustment
 
 


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