File photo.

Santa Monica’s first civilian police oversight body is now accepting applications from residents who feel they are qualified to promote the best practices in community-oriented policing.

Following last summer’s protests pertaining to racial justice and the killing of black men and women around the country, City Council initiated a community engagement process and formed a 15-member Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee, which later made a number of recommendations to local leaders on how Santa Monica can reform its law enforcement practices and better promote equity in the city.

One of the initiatives recommended by the PSRAC was the Public Safety Reform & Oversight Commission, which Council unanimously agreed to create last month.

Interim City Manager Lane Dilg described the commission as the product of a monthslong community engagement process that brought a dedicated and historically diverse group of community members together.

“Our hope,” Dilg said, “is that we fulfilled Council direction to deliver a lasting institutional mechanism to achieve what we all aspire to, which is a Santa Monica Police Department that is a benchmark of excellence and a community that is thoughtfully engaged in the immensely challenging work of co-producing public safety and wellbeing.”

When the ordinance returned to Council for final adoption on January 26, the commission was officially formed and tasked with a number of responsibilities relating to oversight of the Santa Monica Police Department. Council also decided the inaugural Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission would be made up of 11 members who will serve staggered terms of up to four years and will participate in regular Commission meetings at least once a month.

Staff noted the City is looking for a diverse and inclusive group of Commissioners who are Santa Monica residents and have knowledge of or experience with law enforcement, public safety policies and issues, or social services policies and issues; and individuals between the ages of 18 and 22 are especially encouraged to apply because at least two Commissioners will be in this age group.

City employees are not eligible to serve on the Commission, but other individuals who meet the requirements and are interested in serving on the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission are now invited to complete an online application no later than noon on Thursday, March 18.

The application asks about one’s interest in serving on the Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee and any relevant qualifications and experience, according to staff, who said all materials are available at the website santamonica.gov/public-safety-reform-and-oversight-commission.

Applicants are expected to be appointed in the spring by Councilmembers, who offered a glimpse of what they’re looking for in candidates when they discussed the matter last month.

Mayor Pro Tempore Kristin McCowan said she received some outreach from community members who believed it may be useful to have the perspective of a public defender on the commission.

“I know we have a stipulation that you can’t be a current lawyer with a firm and be on the commission but I do think there would be benefit to having a subject matter expert with a background as a public defender,” McCowan said. “So, a former public defender or social worker, I think would be really important here. And I think it would be important to sort of embed that into the ordinance in the same way that we do on Building and Safety and some of our other commission’s that have that requirement.”

Others councilmembers were hesitant to write specifics into the policy though.

“I am a little concerned that if we say we want finance person and we want a former public defender and we want a person who’s worked in this, that or the other thing, then we start and then someone who applies isn’t any of those things, but is still a great candidate; then we sort of boxed ourselves in,” Gleam Davis said. “So I want to give us a maximum flexibility when we appoint these people, to bring people from the widest range of life experiences and backgrounds, sort of into the mix for consideration.”

Councilmember Kevin McKeown agreed, stating this week, “There can’t be a single ‘perfect candidate’ for appointment to this Commission because we’re looking for productive discussion among various points of view.”

“Diversity is far more important than perfection,” he added. “As a Councilmember reviewing the applications, I’ll be looking for a balance of participants who bring to the table widely varying experiences and opinions and are willing to work together toward meaningful action.”

Brennon@smdp.com