As the year draws to a close, so too does the unfair labor practice dispute between the Santa Monica Police Officers Association (SMPOA) and the City regarding the formation of the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission.

In a Dec. 14 special City Council meeting, added to accommodate the cancellation of a meeting scheduled for Dec. 28, Council will hear the first reading of an ordinance revising the powers and duties of the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission.

These changes stem from an unfair labor practice charge the SMPOA filed with the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) in July. The Association alleged that the City failed its legal obligation to meet and confer with the SMPOA prior to City Council establishing the Commission and the Inspector General position, which analyzes public safety information on behalf of 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.

The City settled the PERB charge on Nov. 9 on the condition that certain changes are made to the Commission.

According to the staff report, the City disputes the claims made in the complaint, but “engaged in settlement negotiations with SMPOA to address SMPOA’s concerns and amicably resolve SMPOA’s claims.”

The settlement makes several small changes and clarifications to the protocol and duties of the Commission, but does not concede to an earlier request of the SMPOA to have a police officer serve on the Commission.

Per the ordinance, the SMPOA will gain the ability to appoint a non-voting member to join the commission. However, this member may not be an active SMPD officer and must be selected jointly with the Police Chief.

The ordinance makes several other tweaks to the regulations of the Commission. It requires new appointees to complete training within 6 months of appointment; clarifies that while the Inspector General may gather information pertaining to investigation or disciplinary actions, this person may not participate in them; and clarifies that the Commission cannot take part in or initiate disciplinary investigations.

Additionally, a requirement is added that all of the Commission’s written reports be submitted to the City Manager, Police Chief and SMPOA at least 72 hours before they are discussed by the Commission or by City Council.

“The members of the SMPOA know that now is the time to reimagine our ideas about public safety and we’re excited to work with new City leadership, Chief Batista and our fellow community members on the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission to enact meaningful reforms that will make Santa Monica a leader in community driven policing, and we’re grateful that the voices of public safety professionals have been heard on public safety issues,” said the SMPOA in a statement issued on Nov. 10.

In addition to the ordinance changes the SMPOA will receive a settlement payment of $5,000.

Clara@smdp.com