A grand jury report blasted the city's Citizens Review Board on Police Practices for being weak and under the sway of Internal Affairs officers, but the head of the panel shot back Wednesday, saying he was working to correct the deficiencies.
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The grand jury report said the volunteer panel, created in the late 1980s to take complaints against officers, operated in an atmosphere of prejudice, fear and intimidation.
"The SDPD complaint process works, and citizens should continue to use it," said Jim Kaese, the acting head of the panel.
Kaese said the CRB, which has 23 members, was continually seeking to improve itself, and that no one on the board was contacted by the grand jury.
The grand jury report, made public yesterday, said the CRB has allowed police with the Internal Affairs Division to attend the board's closed session meetings for several years, contributing to the atmosphere of fear and intimidation. In closed-door meeting, members debate and decide issues before them.
Internal Affairs officers argue, lecture and sometimes bully CRB members into changing their minds, according to the report. Internal Affairs officers also told CRB members that they did not want any dissenting votes passed on to the mayor or chief of police, according to the grand jury.
Prospective members of the CRB are recommended by current members but must be appointed by the mayor.
Kaese, a former trial lawyer, said the CRB continues to work on its bylaws, case review, meeting decorum, enhancing diversity, as well as other issues. He said the CRB welcomed legitimate criticism and logical solutions from all sources, including the grand jury.
Kaese said the grand jury's investigation was "severely limited in scope and relies heavily upon accusatory conclusions not based in fact."
The use of terms such as "cronyism" and "prejudice" are significant accusations that deserve specific explanations and factual support, something the grand jury report did not provide, Kaese said.
The grand jury recommended the mayor appoint a three-member team, independent of the CRB, to investigate and evaluate the leadership to determine if changes are needed.
Grand jurors also recommended the mayor establish an interview committee, independent of the CRB, for the selection of board members and to reduce from eight to four the number of consecutive years a board member can serve.
Despite the disagreements, Kaese said, the CRB will review the grand jury findings and work with the mayor's office to determine if any of the recommendations represent practical, legal and beneficial solutions to issues facing the board.
(Click here to read the full statement issued Wednesday, May 23, by the CRB in response to the report.
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