County approves racial justice, law enforcement policy package

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The three-pronged “Racial Justice and Law Enforcement Realignment Policy Package” was approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday  after considerable public input and discussion.

The three policies involve strengthening the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board’s authority and independence, opening an Office of Equity and Racial Justice for San Diego County and having Mobile Crisis Response Teams that use clinicians instead of law enforcement for mental health and homeless services. Supervisor Nathan Fletcher unveiled the proposals on Friday.

According to his office, independence from the county sheriff would be needed to strengthen the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board, as well as granting it independent authority to investigate use-of-weapons and use-of- force claims.

For the Office of Equity and Racial Justice, the county will involve communities of color to set policy and budget priorities, secure and administer restorative justice programs and “dismantle systemic barriers that present obstacles based on race,” Fletcher recently said.

For the Mobile Crisis Response Teams, the county would need to set up a help line, conduct an outreach campaign and dedicate $10 million annually of its Health and Human Services Agency budget toward the teams.

“The community called for change, and today’s action is a step forward,” Fletcher said after the meeting.

“Tackling deep-seated issues of systemic and structural racism is not going to be easy and at times it will be uncomfortable, but we will be a better organization and a better people because of the actions we take to support racial justice and realigning law enforcement.”

A consultant will offer input on creating the Office of Equity and Racial Justice, while Helen Robbins-Meyer, the chief administrative officer, will report back to the board in 90 days on progress in creating the office, on which the county will spend $1.1 million.

The county’s Human Relations Commission — which was re-established last month — will also play a role in how the office is run.

Numerous callers, including activists and business owners, asked the board to support the policy changes. However, more than a few said they preferred a separate proposal, submitted by Rev. Shane Harris, founder and president of the civil rights organization People’s Alliance for Justice.

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar credited the numerous callers and thanked Harris for his suggestions to “make a proposal much better.”

During the meeting, Harris thanked Fletcher for the proposals, but reiterated his opposition.

“You dropped this on Friday night, a poor way to galvanize communities of color,” Harris said.

According to a Fox 5 report, Harris described the proposed Office of Equity and Racial Justice for the county as toothless. He called on District Attorney Summer Stephan to open an independent unit for investigating reports of excessive force and misconduct by law enforcement.

Gaspar mentioned that several years ago, Sheriff William D. Gore recommended hiring more investigators to strengthen the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board. She added that review board members said they weren’t contacted for these recommendations beforehand.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob said she was in favor of the proposal for the review board, but added that it’s wrong “to generalize about the men and women in law enforcement,” as many who serve genuinely want to make the communities they patrol better.

Supervisor Jim Desmond said that if the county wants to attract talented, young and diverse people to law enforcement, “the message that all cops are bad has to change.”

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