The City Council Tuesday directed staff to develop language for a proposed ballot measure that would begin the process of reforming San Diego’s Citizens Review Board on Police Practices.
The proposal would amend the City Charter — San Diego’s chief governing document — requiring a public vote.
If passed by voters in November, the panel’s name would be changed to the Community Review Board on Police Practices, references to a city manager would be replaced by mayor and City Council, and a provision would require the board to review all in-custody deaths and officer-involved shootings.
A group called Women Occupy San Diego first brought the issue before the council in January, contending the board and police had lost community trust. The proposal has since been vetted by several City Council committees, council President Sherri Lightner said.
Members of the public described the proposed ballot measure as “tepid” and “toothless,” and pointed at the strong police response to the aftermath of last month’s rally by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, when some protesters refused to disperse as ordered.
Hundreds of officers in riot gear herded protesters down Harbor Drive away from downtown and toward Barrio Logan, hours after the rally ended, and numerous arrests were made.
Some of the public speakers called the response “militarized” and “fascist.”
Councilwoman Marti Emerald called the proposed proposition a baby step, with more changes to come in the future, and lashed out at critics of how police handled the Trump protesters.
“They didn’t go there to try to create a riot, they went there to make sure we didn’t have a riot on the streets of San Diego,” Emerald said. “I commend every man and woman of our police department who out there that day worked patiently and with total respect for the community — I believe — in making sure we did not have the same kind of violence that we have seen in other cities where that candidate has spewed his hate language.”
The item passed on a 6-1 vote. Councilman Scott Sherman said public comments made it appear the changes were motivated by an “anti-cop agenda,” so he cast a dissenting vote. Councilman David Alvarez was absent and Councilwoman Lorie Zapf wasn’t in the room when the vote was taken.
The original proposal from Women Occupy San Diego also called for giving the City Council the power to appoint members, barring anyone from the San Diego Police Department from being present when cases are reviewed, and removing the city attorney as the board’s legal counsel, since the office also represents the SDPD.
While the latter point won’t be in the ballot measure, the budget for the fiscal year that begins Friday includes funding for hiring independent counsel when needed.
–City News Service
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