Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

The Santa Monica Police Officers Association expressed concerns to Interim City Manager Lane Dilg this week about officers’ lack of involvement in the creation of a police oversight commission.

After months of discussion with the community and appointed members of the Public Safety Reform Advisory Commission, City Council approved a slate of public safety recommendations in September that included a call to create a police oversight commission.

Staff was directed to return with a draft ordinance that would establish an eleven-member Police Commission and the matter is expected to come before council in January since the City is still in the midst of drafting an ordinance in accordance with Council direction.

Even though Santa Monica Police Department officials are part of the city staff drafting the ordinance, Dilg received word about POA’s stance on the proposed commission Thursday in a letter from POA President Erika Aklufi, who said the organization does not take issue with the creation of a police oversight commission, but rather the specific expulsion of public safety personnel in its conception.

“The members of the Santa Monica Police Officers Association know that now is the time to reimagine our ideas about Public Safety. We don’t just want to meet this moment, we want to lead it,” the letter states. “However, currently, we simply aren’t represented.”

Aklufi said in the letter we’ve all learned during the pandemic that it’s a fool’s errand to address public health issues without the counsel of public health experts. “Likewise, addressing public safety issues with the absence of public safety professionals will not produce the best outcome for our community.”

The POA asked residents to ponder if the police department counts as part of the community. “If our City is committed to inclusion, then the voices of the SMPD must be heard,” the letter states.

“Moreover, if we are to achieve systematic change, we certainly aren’t going to get there through unilateral imposition. We need to get there together,” Aklufi said. “We implore you to give us an opportunity to stand with our fellow community members to enact meaningful reforms that will make Santa Monica a leader in community-driven public safety.”

Dilg could not be reached for comment Friday but City Spokesperson Constance Farrell said, “Staff has received the letter from the POA and appreciates the POA’s expression of commitment to meaningful reform through community collaboration, as well as the ongoing commitment of the women and men of the SMPD to leading in building community trust and improving public safety models through community engagement.”