“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain

The Santa Monica Coalition for Police Reform urges the City Council to reject the Police Officers Association petition to remove three Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commissioners for failure to complete mandatory training by May 31, 2022.  

For two years, the POA has thrown repeated roadblocks at the City’s endeavor to implement meaningful oversight and reform of the SMPD. The POA appears to believe it should lead the reform effort.  

However, “at its core, civilian oversight can be broadly defined as the independent, external and ongoing review of a law enforcement agency and its operations by individuals outside of the law enforcement agency being overseen.”  (2021 report by the Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services)

The POA alleges that it seeks the opportunity to “lead reform,” “give our perspective,” “get there together,” “collaborate” and “be represented.”  Apparently, these goals are to be achieved by imposing inflexible and draconian requirements on PSROC membership and ousting hard-working, thoughtful and conscientious PSROC members who need ADA accommodation in order to complete trainings during the Covid pandemic.  

The OIR Group’s After Action Report critically opined that, heretofore, Santa Monica residents have accorded SMPD great deference in its operations. In other words, SMPD has had all the power. One of OIR’s suggestions is for the City to enhance community involvement in assessing SMPD policy and practices. Creating a civilian oversight agency responds to this suggestion. Bowing to the POA’s demands does not.

The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, or NACOLE, asserts that “one of the most important defining concepts of civilian oversight” and “a feature key to effective police oversight” is independence. Independence is defined by NACOLE as the absence of real or perceived influence from law enforcement, political actors or special interests looking to affect the operations of the civilian oversight agency. Such prohibited political influence by law enforcement includes the opportunity to appoint or veto the appointment of commission members.

The POA’s ongoing disputes with the Council, including the present petition, reveal thinly veiled attempts to defeat independence and dilute critical thinking by petitioning to remove three civilian members who are demonstrably engaged in reform efforts. We urge the Council to reject this latest offensive by the POA.

Craig Ali, Julie Alley, Joanne Berlin, Robbie Jones, Audrey Lyness, Michele Wittig