Council moves forward with setting up police oversight commission

SAN DIEGO¬† — The San Diego City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to direct labor negotiators to begin a collective bargaining process with city employees regarding a proposed ballot measure to establish an independent commission overseeing local law enforcement conduct.

The city, under the state’s Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, is required to discuss labor issues like wages, hours and other employment terms with unions to promote communication between public sector employers and their employees.

The city is legally required to comply with the MMBA in considering a measure, proposed by Women Occupy San Diego, to amend the city charter by dissolving the city’s Community Review Board on Police Practices and replacing it with the commission, which would retain independent counsel and have subpoena power to investigate certain cases of misconduct by local law enforcement officers.

The proposal’s supporters called on the city to quickly complete the bargaining process to ensure the measure is placed on next year’s ballot in a timely manner. Councilwoman Monica Montgomery, chair of the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, has shepherded the proposal through the ballot measure process since its introduction in July.

“My goal is to bring policies forward that are fair, that promote trust and transparency between the community and police officers,” Montgomery said. “This is not the be-all, end-all. We have so much work to do in this area but I do believe it is a bridge. And I believe it will help us get to where we need to be.”

Currently, the CRB is considered an advisory board to the mayor’s office and is represented by the city attorney’s office. The CRB also lacks subpoena power and the authority to investigate police misconduct complaints. The commission would serve as a hybrid investigatory, review and auditing body.

The proposal’s supporters have argued the commission would not be used as a cudgel against local law enforcement agencies and would result in safer communities throughout the city.

“This is not an anti-police measure,” City Councilwoman Barbara Bry said. “I supported significant pay raises for our police officers. I supported the establishment of a housing fund to help police officers buy homes in the city of San Diego. But at the end of the day, all of us need to be held accountable.”

The council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee considered the measure at its Sept. 18 and Oct. 23 meetings. The council will vote on whether to place the measure on the November 2020 ballot later this year or next year after the completion of the collective bargaining process.

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