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Plan for police oversight commission takes key step forward

Posted at 5:26 PM, Nov 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-05 21:45:01-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A proposal to create a police oversight commission in San Diego took a step forward Tuesday.

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously to begin meeting with the San Diego Police Officers Association, a key legal step along the path to the November ballot.

A group called Women Occupy San Diego has been pushing for years to change the city's current Community Review Board on Police Practices, which a 2018 Grand Jury report concluded lacked oversight. That Grand Jury noted the community review board does not have subpoena power and that San Diego Police personnel can sit in on what are supposed to be closed-door deliberations.

"It's not independent of the mayor, it does not have its own investigative powers," Attorney Genevieve Jones-Wright said at a rally outside City Hall before the Tuesday vote. "The concern from the community is that it is just a rubber stamp of what police officers have already determined in their own investigations."

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The proposed independent commission would investigate all deaths occurring while a person is in police custody, all deaths resulting from interactions with a San Diego police officer, and all officer-related shootings. It would have subpoena power and its own legal representation.

"One of the things that's most disturbing about the current CRB is that it is required to have as its attorney the City Attorney. And the City Attorney is the same attorney for the police department," said Andrea St. Julian, who authored the proposal submitted to the city.

The meet-and-confer with the union is expected to happen in time for the November election. Jack Schaeffer, who heads the association, welcomed the talks.

"We're going to make sure that the way that they're planning on rolling this thing out isn't going to interfere in our ability to investigate a crime scene, and then how we interact and things like that," he said. "It's going to be really important to figure that out during meet-and-confer."

In a statement, Police Chief David Nisleit said the department will work with civilian oversight in any manner approved by the voters.

The city's independent business analyst said the commission could cost between $1.1 million and $2.3 million per year, depending on staffing. Proponents say that is in line with other cities with similar commissions.