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San Diego police headquarters. Photo credit: @sandiegopolicedepartment, via Facebook

While the city wrestles with creating a new police review board, the current board, tasked with “holding the fort,” is having a “difficult and stressful” time managing the workload of incoming police cases they need to review.

So says Sharmaine Moseley, the interim executive director of the Commission on Police Practices.

The actual commission has not been formed yet; it’s still in the process of being created. The previous board named the Citizens Review Board is being replaced by the new commission.

Moseley was the director of the former board. It’s a Rubik’s Cube of confusing names and titles, but the bottom line is this: While the new commission is created the old one is tasked with watchdogging the San Diego Police Department. And it’s having serious challenges.  

One driver of the problem, said Moseley, is “the number of cases reviewed by the commission has definitely increased.” 

She said the stressful workload can be attributed to “a combination of many factors, among them the previous shutdowns due to the pandemic, technology learning curve to review cases remotely, and increased number of investigating sergeants in Internal Affairs.” The increase in sergeants is most likely leading to more cases of potential police misconduct and in turn increasing the number of incoming cases to the review board. 

Pulling together and evaluating the elements for the review of a police officer or officers’ actions is time consuming  and requires training of the engaged citizen.

Three-person teams handle individual cases, and they can be extremely complicated and multilayered, review board members say. The existing board does not have an infinite period of time to review cases as the applicable legislation requires completion of any investigation within one year.

It’s something of a perfect storm as the interim board is also losing volunteers to review the cases while the number of police officer cases has risen.

The Citizens Review Board is supposed to have  23 members, but is now down to 15 members. Given the red tape that has to be overcome to fill volunteer positions,  it is likely to be a challenging job to find and train needed members for what is at this time a temporary volunteer position.

Unlike the commision it will be replacing, the current board can’t wait the four years that one timeline estimates it will take to create the new panel.

Moseley said there is a strong need for an “implementation ordinance or something in place” to find and seat new board members immediately.

“We have several commissioners whose terms have expired but they are continuing to do this work for the city because it is needed and they are dedicated to oversight of the San Diego Police Department,” she said.

JW August is a San Diego-based broadcast and digital journalist.