San Diego

20 Community Groups Support Ballot Proposal For Changes To City Citizens Review Board

Included In The Proposal: More Diverse Board Member, Opening All Meetings To The Public And Independent Board Investigators.

 A local community group submitted a ballot proposal Tuesday calling for changes to the City of San Diego’s Citizens Review Board on Police Practices.

"Women Occupy San Diego" submitted the proposal to the San Diego City Council Rules Committee to be considered for the November ballot. Members of the group say they hope the full Council will review the proposal to allow the public to vote on the changes.

Some of the proposed changes include having independent investigators for the Review Board, more diverse citizen board members and opening all of the Board meetings to the public. To help with the diversity of the board, the proposal would allow city council members to appoint board member from their districts.

Click here to see all of the proposed changes. 

An NBC 7 Investigates story revealed two former board members, Lucy Pearson and Benetta Buell-Wilson, said they think the board has a “fixed” and ineffective review process. According to the women, the process subverts the board's intent, something that’s detrimental not just for citizens but for SDPD officers as well.

Buell-Wilson and Pearson claim a lack of transparency and secret decision-making stifles dissent between members and the city. Both women said CRB members who are "pro-police" get the more serious cases, depriving the complaining citizens of a fair hearing.

Click here to see the complete investigation.

Women Occupy San Diego members said the NBC 7 Investigates story inspired them to "include independent legal counsel” for the Board in the ballot proposal.

“Our proposal is a very comprehensive proposal that completely changes the Citizens Review Board to make it truly independent, to make it accountable to the community and to make it transparent,” Kate Yavenditti, an attorney and active member of Women Occupy San Diego, said.

The ballot proposal is supported by 20 local civic organizations including ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Black and Brown Lives Matter, Citizens Oversight Projects and National Action Network-San Diego.

The Review Board was approved by voters in 1988 to help relieve tensions in the city after the shooting death of a police officer by a young black man in southeast San Diego.

Gerry Braun, Communications Director for the City Attorney’s Office, said the Office does not take a position on initiatives like these. “Our role, once voters make a decision at the polls, is to help implement the will of the voters and to defend it against lawsuits,” he said in an email to NBC 7 Investigates.

Per Council policy, any ballot proposals to be considered by City Council had to be submitted to the City Clerk’s office by Tuesday, January 5. Those proposals are then forwarded to the Council Rules Committee to be considered. That meeting will take place January 13.

Read the full response from Braun in the City Attorney’s Office and Elizabeth Maland, the City Clerk, below:

Hello Lynn,
The City Attorney’s Office does not take positions on citizen initiatives. Our role, once voters make a decision at the polls, is to help implement the will of the voters and to defend it against lawsuits.
As you know, when critics of the San Diego Citizen’s Review Board on Police Practices have complained about its methods or responsibilities, this office has directed them to the initiative process that is now being used.
Yours are policy questions best directed to policymakers.

Hi, Lynn –
As the City Clerk, I can only speak to the process. Council Policy 000-21 provides procedures for the submission of ballot propositions to the City Council, by members of the public, Councilmembers, the Mayor or mayoral departments, independent department directors, or a public agency. The procedures are intended to provide sufficient time for consideration of proposals by the Council Standing Committee chaired by the Council President, or other Committee designated by the Council President, prior to potential consideration by the Council.
As publicly noticed, any ballot proposition submitted to my office by 5 pm on January 5, 2016, is forwarded to the Committee Consultant for docketing at the January 13, 2016 (Rules) Committee Meeting. At that meeting, the Committee members may act to forward any, all or none, of these ballot proposals to the full Council. The full Council would then subsequently consider the proposals for placement on the June 7, 2016 ballot. After confirming with Ms. Yavenditti that she wished for the potential ballot proposition submitted by “Women Occupy San Diego” to be forwarded to the Committee Consultant for the January 13, 2016 Rules Committee Meeting, my staff did so.
Elizabeth Maland, City Clerk
City of San Diego

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