Appointments to city’s police oversight committee spark opposition

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SDPD police car

SAN DIEGO — The City Council committee that oversees the San Diego Police Department will be filled with representatives of affluent neighborhoods, raising the ire of some Southeast San Diego residents.

The assignments that were approved unanimously Monday by the council at a special meeting were part of a larger slate that set rosters for the panel’s committees, named city representatives to outside agencies and made Mark Kersey the council president pro tem.

The selections to the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee followed more than a year of efforts to reduce tensions between police and some members of the public, who criticized the appointments for not including representatives of disadvantaged areas.

The committee has been the forum for airing out issues like racial profiling in traffic stops, diversity in the SDPD rank-and-file, and video cameras that officers wear on their uniforms.

The only committee appointee who represents a district south of Interstate 8 — a traditional San Diego dividing line between haves and have- nots — is Chris Ward, who represents well-off downtown, Hillcrest and North Park.

Incoming committee Chairman Chris Cate’s district is Mira Mesa. Other committee members will be Barbara Bry, La Jolla; and Lorie Zapf, the beach areas and Point Loma.

The public speakers implored the appointees to visit Southeast San Diego and stay in touch with community leaders.

“I appreciate the invite to come out to the community and that’s exactly what I intend to do,” said Cate, who noted that Mira Mesa also has diverse neighborhoods. He conceded that his chairmanship will bring a “learning curve” and invited community leaders to contact his office.

Council President Myrtle Cole, who represents Southeast San Diego, said she would have a staff member attend each Public Safety meeting, and planned to meet frequently with police Chief Shelley Zimmerman. She also expressed confidence in Cate.

Other committee chairs approved in a series of 9-0 votes:

  • Audit, newly elected Georgette Gomez;
  • Budget, Bry, also newly elected;
  • Economic Development, Zapf;
  • Environment, David Alvarez;
  • Rules, Cole; and
  • Smart Growth and Land Use, Scott Sherman.

Ward, also new to the council, was not named to any chairmanship posts.

Kersey, who represents Rancho Bernardo and Scripps Ranch, is beginning his second term on the City Council.

His new role is mainly symbolic — he’ll run a meeting if Cole is absent — but it could elevate his profile as a leader of the council’s four-member Republican faction on the technically nonpartisan body.

“Council member Kersey and I have served together on council committees, and I’ve gotten to know and appreciate his leadership style, as well as his work with all of the council members,” Cole said.

Kersey retained chairmanship of the council’s Infrastructure Committee. Under his leadership, the city is slowly coming to grips with the size of its capital projects and maintenance backlog.

The council also approved assignments to numerous outside boards and committees, ranging from the San Diego Association of Governments and Metropolitan Transit System to the Mission Trails Regional Taskforce and League of Cities.

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