El Cajon Police Station
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The Citizens Review Board measure on the November 8 ballot changes the name of San Diego’s Citizens’ Review Board on Police Practices to the Community Review Board on Police Practices. The measure requiring review of in-custody deaths and officer-involved shootings isn’t the only proposal to modify the panel.

Changes to the city and county of San Diego boards are recommended in the 2015/2016 San Diego County Grand Jury Report on Citizen Oversight Boards of Police Behavior. The report also recommended that seven cities establish citizen review boards or consider forming regional boards.

Recommendations were prompted by the investigation of “several citizen complaints regarding police behavior in local jurisdictions,” according to the report that set an August 23 deadline for responses. I contacted cities and the county for their responses and asked for the number of citizen complaints. Population figures are the U.S. Census Bureau’s July 1, 2015, estimates.

The jury recommended that the City of San Diego (population 1,394,928) publish an annual report on board actions, provide independent counsel and “modest compensation for board member time and expenses.” The city received a deadline extension to October 28, said Jen Lebron, mayor Kevin Faulconer’s press secretary. The extension was requested because of the “extensive review” required for the response and the city’s August legislative recess.

In 2015, Lebron said there were 63 Category 1 complaints — issues pertaining to an “arrest, criminal conduct, discrimination, force, and use of ethnic/racial slurs.” There were 87 Category 2 complaints, which pertain “to conduct, courtesy, procedure, and service.”

Due to the size of the other cities, the jury suggested formation of regional boards. A board could oversee complaints in El Cajon and La Mesa. Another serving Coronado and Chula Vista could “incorporate” National City, which has a board. A third could serve Carlsbad, Oceanside, and Escondido.

Cities that responded to the Reader by press time rejected review boards. (I will post updates in the comments section). In La Mesa (population 60,089), the city council voted July 26 to send a letter stating La Mesa “does not have a history of complaints… that have not been resolved.” While La Mesa doesn’t “doesn’t plan to institute” a board, the city “will continue to explore possible options in the future.”

La Mesa police chief Walt Vasquez

La Mesa police chief Walt Vasquez

Police chief Walt Vasquez said in August that five complaints were filed in 2015; the 2016 year-to-date total was two complaints.

In El Cajon (population 103,679), police internal affairs lieutenant Rob Ransweiler said in July that one citizen complaint was filed in 2016; there was one complaint in 2015, two in 2014, and eight in 2013.

El Cajon’s 2013–2015 police contacts with citizens, meanwhile, were 93,000 in 2015, “nearly” 89,000 in 2014, and 95,000 in 2013. The letter noted the community size and the “outstanding [police] track record of appropriate professionalism.” A board “would have literally nothing to do” for “the vast majority” of time.

Coronado police chief Jon Froomin

Coronado police chief Jon Froomin

In Coronado (population 24,812), the response approved by the council on July 19 stated the police department received an “84 percent positive rating” in a 2014 National Research Center survey of residents. Police chief Jon Froomin said in August that there were five complaints in 2014, nine in 2015, and six in 2016.

Chula Vista’s response is on the August 16 council agenda, said city clerk Donna Norris.

In National City (population 61,060), the Community and Police Relations Commission February 18, 2016, minutes show commissioners “unanimously supported” police findings in eight cases; in a ninth case, there were four votes of support and two abstentions.

My call to the City of Escondido (population 151,451) was referred to police chief Craig Carter. We haven’t connected yet, but have both left phone messages.

For Carlsbad (population 113,453), I filed a public records request for the August 1 memo with the city’s response. Communications manager Kristina Ray said 12 citizen complaints were filed in 2015.

For Oceanside (population 175,691), I filed a request for complaint figures. Oceanside’s August 10 council agenda contained a letter rejecting jury recommendations.

The county Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board investigates complaints against the sheriff’s department and probation officers, and in-custody deaths in jails and juvenile-detention facilities. A June 2016 table on the board website showed 129 complaints in 2015 and 68 in 2016.

The jury recommended that the county provide “modest compensation for board member time and expenses” to “encourage greater community involvement and increase board diversity.”

The county "disagreed" in a response approved by the board of supervisors on July 19. Review board members are reimbursed for travel.

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AlexClarke Aug. 13, 2016 @ 9:29 a.m.

Except for San Diego it sounds like a solution in search of a problem. If a police department did not receive any complaints it would be because the police were not doing their jobs.


Visduh Aug. 13, 2016 @ 7:33 p.m.

Somehow, I'm not surprised to learn that few of these jurisdictions think there's any problem. A few complaints? Bound to happen. They manage to deal (or not deal) with the complaints and the verdict is that there's no need. What if you reside in one of those cities and have had a bad run-in with a local gendarme? Are you going to complain when there is a track record of sweeping them under the rug? I'd say not.

But the county grand jury begs to differ and recommends setting up these review panels. Is that grand jury, filled with older and comfortable white folks, mostly GOP, going to take on some sort of radical, anti-law-enforcement stance just 'cause? No, if they found a need, it exists. Sadly for decades, grand juries have made recommendations at length, and they are mostly (i.e. nearly always) ignored. I have no reason to think that grand jury reports will ever be taken seriously. The electorate is just asleep, and votes for telegenic personalities or those who can muster the biggest bucks for TV ads.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.


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