Following an extensive community engagement process, the Santa Monica City Council at its meeting last night took an additional step to advance racial equity and public safety reform by unanimously approving the creation of a Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission, Santa Monica’s first civilian police oversight body. The Commission largely follows recommendations made by the Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee that convened in the summer of 2020.
The Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission will promote, in partnership with the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD), best practices in community-oriented policing for the fair treatment, safety, and wellbeing of all, and will work with SMPD and experts to recommend reforms to SMPD policies, practices, and handling of complaints regarding SMPD conduct.
“Public safety reform for Santa Monica has been a thorough and inclusive process at every step,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “The structure for the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission reflects community recommendations and creates a sustainable model for meaningful civilian oversight and ongoing community engagement.”
The 11 members of the Commission will be appointed by the City Council and must be Santa Monica residents with a significant commitment to the public safety and wellbeing of the City and its community members and must have knowledge of or experience with law enforcement, public safety policies and issues, or social services policies and issues. Members of the Commission would be required to receive training relevant to providing oversight of law enforcement and to the understanding of racial justice.
The Commission will have the power and duty to:
- Review and make recommendations regarding SMPD policies and practices;
- Receive information relating to any violations of procedures or policies in connection with disciplinary investigations, proceedings, and actions, and make recommendations regarding any such violations;
- Collaborate with the SMPD to sponsor and promote ongoing interaction and trust building between the SMPD and community members, including providing channels and opportunities for ongoing dialogue between the SMPD and community members in both organized and informal settings;
- Promote transparency and availability to the public of SMPD data and records;
- Collaborate with the SMPD and the community to promote restorative justice;
- Evaluate and make recommendations regarding ideas for implementing best practices in community-oriented policing and reimagining public safety and wellbeing; and
- Review and make recommendations regarding the proposed budget for the SMPD.
The Commission’s work will be facilitated by an Inspector General, an independent individual with the ability to view internal documents and provide data at the appropriate level to the Commission. The Inspector General would report to and receive direction from the Commission. The Inspector General would be retained through an outside entity as a professional services contractor retained by the City Manager’s Office, and would be funded through a reallocation from the SMPD budget. In addition to the Inspector General, the Commission would receive support from a staff liaison from outside of the Police Department as well as from a Deputy City Attorney.
Within 150 days of the first official meeting of the Commission, the Commission shall prepare and present to the Police Chief, City Manager, and City Council a set of initial recommendations regarding proposed reforms for handling complaints regarding SMPD conduct, including proposed reforms for the intake, review, and investigation of complaints and the oversight of disciplinary decisions and policies.
The Commission will be required to provide written reports of its activities to the City Council at least every six months and at Council’s direction.
The Ordinance will return to Council for second reading and final adoption at its next meeting on January 26, 2021. Following final adoption, City staff will solicit applications from community members interested in serving on the Commission. The application period for the Commission will be widely promoted. For the latest information, sign up for our community newsletter at santamonica.gov/newsletter.
An additional milestone for public safety reform in Santa Monica was achieved yesterday with an update to the Santa Monica Police Department’s use of force policy, now available at santamonicapd.org.