Four months after residents presented a number of reforms related to policing in Santa Monica, City Council is set to discuss the prospective formation of a Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission.
In September, City Council approved a recommendation from the Public Safety Reform Advisory Commission (PSRAC) to develop an ordinance that would create a civilian oversight commission.
“Consistent with Council direction, staff now recommends that the City Council introduce for first reading an ordinance adopting Santa Monica Municipal Code Chapter 2.50 to create and establish an 11-member Public Safety Reform & Oversight Commission,” a staff report for the upcoming meeting on January 12 states.
“As directed by Council on September 8, 2020, the Commission would comprise 11 members, to be appointed by Council… Consistent with the PSRAC Recommendations, members of the Commission should have a significant commitment to the public safety and wellbeing of the city, as well as knowledge of or experience with law enforcement, public safety policies and issues, or social services policies and issues,” the staff report adds.
Sworn officers and nonsworn employees of the Santa Monica Police Department are not eligible to serve as commissioners but the commission is expected to collaborate with the department to sponsor and promote ongoing interaction and trust-building between the SMPD and community members.
The 11-member commission could also be tasked with reviewing SMPD policies and practices and making recommendations regarding those policies and practices to the Police Chief, City Manager, and City Council; and is expected to work through the Inspector General, receive information relating to any violations of procedures or policies in connection with disciplinary investigations, proceedings, and actions, and make recommendations regarding any such violations to the Police Chief, City Manager, and City Council, according to the available staff report.
In summation, staff said, “the Commission will have the ability to conduct conversations and forums focused on restorative justice in keeping with its broader community engagement role as a convenor. This can include engaging with community partners to provide training and educational opportunities regarding cultural competency, strategies for repairing community trust, and other issues as identified by the Commission.”
Consistent with other local boards and commissions, the public safety commission is expected to have a role in the annual budget process for SMPD in alignment with the City’s budget calendar, and can provide recommendations to the SMPD, City Manager, or City Council throughout that process, according to the staff report.
Staff also recommends that an Inspector General be retained to facilitate the work of the Commission because previous PSRAC recommendations placed high importance on promotion of transparency and access to data.
“Staff estimates a full-time Inspector General position to cost approximately $200,000-$225,000, including benefits,” which is an estimate based on a review of relevant positions on Transparent California and other research methods, staff said. “Before returning with a proposal to create this as a full-time position, however, staff would consider the cost effectiveness of additional options, including retaining these services on a contract basis through a group like the OIR Group, which is leading the independent review of the events of May 31st, or as a part-time or limited term position.”
Councilmember Kevin McKeown said Monday he strongly supports the creation of the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission and wants to make sure it has the tools and the power to effect real change.
“We have one of the best departments in the country, but even our police can benefit from community input and concentrated efforts to create a productive partnership with the people we all serve,” McKeown said, which is why he brought the Obama Pledge and the Eight Can’t Wait concepts on police reform to Council back in June while serving as mayor.
Council will meet virtually on Jan. 12 to discuss the issue.