Photo by Matthew Hall.

The City of Santa Monica will hire an outside agency to provide both a factual report and an analysis of decision making related to the police department’s handling of protests and riots earlier this year.

The community had expected the Santa Monica Police Department to release a factual, after-action report this month. However, the department said it was unable to produce the document due to a lack of manpower and a trio of councilmembers asked the full council to authorize a private company to expedite the report.

An after-action report is required before a separate independent analysis can be commissioned to evaluate the response and several councilmembers were frustrated with delaying the overall discussion due to a lack of information from SMPD.

In authorizing the hiring of a private company, the council said they could bypass the wait for an internal report if the contract’s scope was expanded to have a single entity gather the facts and analyze them simultaneously.

“Now, we’re almost four months from that heart-wrenching incident on May 31, and we need data,” Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day said during the council meeting. O’Day stated he knows officers are busy conducting the daily duties of their job but “we think that it’s time to get an outside resource to help move this process along faster — to make sure that it’s thorough — to make sure that it’s accurate.”

Large groups of criminals flooded Santa Monica in May following a peaceful protest for racial justice. While significant looting occurred in the Downtown area, SMPD deployed officers to confront ongoing protests including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. Eventually, National Guard troops were called in to restore order.

Residents have criticized the police response and demanded information about the city’s decision making process.

“There’s an urgency of now because three months and no information is unacceptable,” said Councilmember Kristin McCowan, who placed the item on the agenda along with O’Day and councilmember Sue Himmelrich.

“People were under the impression this was going to go faster,” McCowan said, echoing statements made by Himmelrich.

“The community absolutely deserves something, and I hate that we’re at this point,” McCowan said.

“Although I’m not one of the people who were on this item, I do want to say I agree with a lot of what Kristin said,” Gleam Davis said. “It’s clear that our police force… needs this outside assistance in order to compile what will be an informative and hopefully illuminating after-action report about the events of May 31, and beyond,” Davis added. “And then I think what’s really the key here is getting the analysis of what did we do right — what should we have done differently.”

“I do think it’s important that the community have transparency and accountability around what happened. And for that reason, I would support bringing in the outside expert to do this and do it right and give the community the answers it wants around a very complex event,” Interim City Manager Lane Dilg said.

Since the consulting firm would cost more than the cap on contracts that can be authorized without Council approval, councilmember Ted Winterer suggested city council direct the city attorney to complete the process as fast as possible.

“I don’t quite remember how back in June we decided we were going to have this report done by August, but we have created community expectations that it would be done,” Winterer said.

He said the city needs to try to move through the complex process as fast as possible and begin the work.

Staff said similar reports have taken six months to a year to complete in the past, so Council instructed staff to provide regular updates to the public in the meantime.

brennon@smdp.com