Jan 5, 2915 (San Diego) Over the last year or so, Women Occupy has been trying to get City Council to review the workings of the Police Citizens Review Board (CRB). This, according to Kate Yavenditti has been quite unsuccessful. Never mind that they have tried to work through the charter review process. They are presenting a ballot initiative, to place this on the November Ballot.
Yavenditti sais that “Women Occupy and the National Lawyers guild were part of the legal team helping the occupies, and when we saw the police misconduct and brutality that was inflicted on the occupies we wanted to do something about it.” This is the origin of the work that has led ot this proposal.
One of the first actions taken was the filing of 17 complaints with the Citizens review board and nothing happened with them. Later on both the Chair told them and Vice chair that they never even saw those 17 complaints.
This is due to current procedure. Complaints filed with the CRB go to San Diego Police Internal Affairs and they decide if the complaints will be turned over to the CRB. If there is any investigation, formally it is done by Internal Affairs.
According to Yavenditti the CRB is “under the thumb of the San Diego Police Department, because it is the police department that controls the investigation.” She also went into other issues; such as an officer sits during the meetings and many of the hearings are not open to the public, even though they should under the Brown Act. Yavenditti added that she understand personnel issues need to remain closed under the same Brown Act.
There is a clear conflict of interest, since the police really wants to protect itself. The Office of the City Attorney also sits at the board, and again, their role is to reduce or prevent liability for the city.
Some of the changes that are being proposed is taking the authority to appoint members from the Mayor and placing it with every city council member. It would raise the number of members from 23 to 27 and each would be able to appoint members from their districts. This would increase diversity in the board. At least 3 of these members should review each case before the CRB.
The city attorney and his office will no longer advise the CRB, but this will be an independent counsel that does not have anything to do with defending the city. This will remove that conflict of interest.
This new board will also have it’s own investigators, independent of the police debarment. They also want to prevent any police personnel to be present during deliberations.
This is critical, anybody who files a complaint, should be able to follow it though, and have an answer as to what is the status of the review.
While it makes sense, the CRB will also submit annual reports of it’s work to city council. These are just some of the changes that are proposed.
This is technical, but they also want to change the name from Citizens Review Board to Community Review Board, to reflect that this applies to all members of the community, not just citizens. At this point, there is no trust in the system
Reverend Robert Forte of the National Action Network, San Diego chapter, said that “we are here to support Women Occupy San Diego and the proposal. He added, “the problem of accountability of public officials and agencies is one of the most difficult in democratic theory and practice.”
This is a difficult problem since government needs certain authorities to carry out its mission. “But it is the overt and systematic abuse that has been happening here in San Diego that has allowed entitlement. The entitlement to take lives.”
This is not just African American or brown lives, but all lives. The community needs to take charge, and “review, and render decisions that are fair to our citizens in San Diego.” Forte said.
“We would not be here if there wasn’t for actual and potential abuses by our public servants….they are not the judges, and they are not the jury.”
Rafael Bautista gave us a concrete example of this. He approached the CRB in 2014, after he was approached by San Diego PO at a local beach. He was at the beach with his dog and his six month old daughter.
Here is the video he posted on his Facebook page.
He started to film this encounter and feared that this could escalate into an arrest. He did not have an ID on his person, but believed one was on the diaper bag. This, he also said, was not just because of the dog, who was not on a leash.
While leash laws do apply, he filed because he felt that the officers used excessive force. Also he said, they searched his diaper bag. The CRB did not find anything wrong.
His experience is rather typical and has led to an overall mistrust of police and mistrust of the CRB. He also said, that he feels this encounter happened because he is Hispanic.