The City and the Santa Monica Police Officers Association reached a settlement over an unfair labor practice charge filed by the SMPOA in response to the formation of the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission.

On July 23, SMPOA filed a complaint with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) alleging that the City failed its legal obligation to meet and confer with the SMPOA prior to City Council enacting Chapter 2.50 of the Municipal Code, which established the Commission.

The Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission was formed in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement to provide independent oversight of the SMPD and recommendations to promote best practices in community-oriented policing.

It was the perspective of the union that they are entitled to confer with the City when an ordinance impacting the workplace conditions of personnel is enacted.

The recently announced settlement is predicated on several changes to the Municipal Code. Of greatest significance is the ability for the Police Chief and SMPOA to jointly appoint a non-voting member to serve on the Commission. This member cannot be a current member of the police department or a City employee.

The Municipal Code adjustments also include a stipulation that the Commission may not participate in SMPD’s individual disciplinary investigations and that the Inspector General, who was hired by the City to assist the Commissioners’ work, may gather information related to disciplinary investigations, but will also not participate in those investigations.

Additionally, the Commission must provide the City Manager, Police Chief and SMPOA with 72 hours notice of recommendations and reports to be considered by the Commission or City Council.

City Council will vote on the proposed Municipal Code changes at a future meeting, and if they are approved the PERB charge will be dismissed.

While the SMPOA initially sought to have an officer serve on the Commission, a statement by the association expressed satisfaction with the terms of the settlement.

“The SMPOA is pleased to report that an agreement has been reached with the City to resolve this matter and avoid litigation… the sworn public servants represented by the SMPOA are committed to a safe and equitable Santa Monica where the rights of all people are protected, and we’re hopeful that this is the beginning of a new era of community collaboration to that most vital end,” said the SMPOA in a statement.

Commission Chair George Brown expressed some concerns with the terms of the settlement, but said that overall most of the Municipal Code adjustments are benign.

From Brown’s perspective the ability of SMPOA and the Police Chief to appoint a non-voting commissioner offers both potential benefits and detriments to the Commission’s work.

“The risk that we need to pay attention to is maintaining the independence of the Commission,” said Brown. “It’s an opportunity because the Chief and the union together can have the opportunity to find somebody who is in fact independent and thoughtful and could be very helpful to the Commission overall.”

Brown said that it would be valuable to the Commission’s work for the rank and file officers to feel that there is someone on the Commission who accurately represents their point of view as this could improve overall dialogue between the Department and Commission.

The additional area of concern noted by Brown is the clarification that the Commission cannot file disciplinary complaints, which he said may cause issues down the line if a serious issue comes to the attention of the Commission.