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City council appoints community members to new police oversight board

Two and a half years after San Diego voters approved a new police oversight board, the city council on Monday appointed 25 community members to do the job.

While the appointments were long overdue, observers say it would take about a year for the Police Practices Commission to be fully operational.

The newly appointed commissioners will take over from an interim commission plagued by a wave of resignations and a backlog of 100 to 150 cases. Deciding how to deal with the backlog will likely be one of the commission’s first tasks.

Andrea St. Julian, co-chair of San Diegans for Justice and author of the ballot measure that led to the commission’s creation, said the appointments made by the board at a special meeting on Monday were important.

“I think we’ve taken a big step forward,” St. Julian said.

But she also said she feared there would be delays before the commissioners – who will have to pass a background check – take their seats and start serving.

“In the past, we always believed things would go quickly, and they didn’t,” St. Julian said.

On Monday, the candidates present had two minutes to make statements. Time was set aside for board members to ask questions of the candidates, although no questions were asked of any of them.

During public comments, several community leaders, including St. Julian’s, lobbied for the city council to nominate their preferred candidates.

Candidates obtaining at least five votes were nominated. After five rounds of voting, the 25 seats on the commission were filled. The council appointees included several candidates who garnered community support.

Not everyone was happy with every appointment. St. Julian said she considers “one or two” named individuals to be allies of city leaders. Jared Wilson, president of the police union, said in a statement that he thought a “small number of commissioners appear to approach their position more as anti-police activists than neutral arbiters.”

Neither St. Julian nor Wilson shared names.

The group of appointees – selected from a list of 45 nominees – includes retired lawyers, mental health and social justice advocates, a retired criminal justice research analyst, an administrative specialist in the discipline from the school district, a former member of the county psychiatric crisis response team, and members of the community. with experience in police surveillance work.

The new commissioners are:

  • Cheryl Canson, Christina Griffin Jones, Clovis Honoré, Gloria Tran, Jason Moore, Joseph Smith, Laila Aziz, Maria Guadalupe Lozano-Diaz and Yvania Rubio in the extraordinary seats.
  • Darlanee Mulmat in District 1 Headquarters, Alec Beyer in District 2, Brandon Hilpert in District 3, Dwayne Harvey in District 4, Octavio Aguilar in District 5, Cheryl Ann Geyerman in District 6, Dennis Brown in District 7, James Justus in District 8 and Ramon Montaño Marquez in District 9.
  • Bonnie Benitez, Dennis Larkin, Doug Case, Mark Maddox and Nicole Murray Ramirez in seats reserved for residents of low-to-moderate income neighborhoods; And
  • Dalia Sherlyn Villa da la Cruz and Jaylene Vasquez in seats reserved for young adults 18-24.

The appointments were the latest in an ongoing effort to set up the commission. Then commissioners will need to undergo training and develop procedures — or protocols — for conducting their investigations and issuing disciplinary recommendations to the police department. City council will need to approve procedures and hire staff to support the commission, including an executive director and legal counsel.
The commission, however, will not need to start from scratch. The interim commission has in recent months drafted procedures for new commissioners to review and developed a program that includes about 30 hours of training, according to Acting Chairman Case, who was selected from among the appointees on Monday.

Once all the pieces are in place, the commission will investigate — and not just review — shootings by officers and deaths in custody. The panel will also have the discretion to investigate other incidents, such as serious use of force by officers, and will also review complaints against officers and policies and practices within the San Francisco Police Department. Diego.

The commission came about after 75% of voters approved Measure B in November 2020. The decision replaced the Community Policing Review Commission, which reviewed internal police investigations into shootings and other remedies. forced by officers, as well as complaints about certain types. of misconduct.

The interim commission operated under the old format – it reviewed cases – until last month when the group, faced with a backlog and only eight active members, paused in the hope that new commissioners would soon be appointed.

The interim commission has repeatedly expressed concern that an increase in its workload and a wave of resignations among overworked commissioners has created the backlog, current and former interim commissioners said.

“The Commission is concerned that it may soon be unable to provide the civilian oversight the community expects and demands,” read a memo sent to city council in January 2022.

As of last month, the commission had reviewed 56 cases in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. That’s down from 124 cases in fiscal year 2021 and 103 in fiscal year 2022, according to data from the monitoring group.

After several delays, city council approved the framework for the new commission last fall. The application process for new commissioners opened in December and closed in February.

After Monday’s special meeting, council member Marni von Wilpert said in a statement that she was thrilled the city was “one step closer to implementing bold, robust and transparent policing.”

“I’m confident that the new commissioners will bring valuable and diverse expertise and perspectives to the table, and I look forward to them getting to work as soon as possible,” said von Wilpert, who is also chairman of the board of directors. council public safety. .

Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe said at the meeting that the nominations were the first time the city has filled seats on a commission without the mayor’s involvement. This was the intention of measure B, as a means of creating confidence in surveillance.

Montgomery Steppe said she was delighted that the candidates represented diverse backgrounds. “It really gives me hope to hear from all of you that we are in good hands,” she said.

Most commissioners will serve two-year terms. To create staggered terms, 12 of the commissioners will serve one-year terms.

California Daily Newspapers

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