Grand Jury Recommends Changes to San Diego's Police Oversight Boards

Recommendations for City of San Diego’s police watchdog group includes independent

A San Diego County Grand Jury is recommending changes to the City of San Diego’s police oversight board that include revisions to the board member recruitment process, independent legal counsel for the board and compensation for board members. 

The city’s police oversight board, the Citizens’ Review Board (CRB) on Police Practices serves as watchdog designated to hold San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officers accountable for alleged misconduct and protect police from unfair discipline.

Last year, two former board members told NBC 7 Investigates, the board has a “fixed” and ineffective review process. They said the process subverts the board's intent, something that’s detrimental not just for citizens but for SDPD officers as well.

The Grand Jury report was initiated after it received several citizen complaints related to police officer behavior in San Diego, according this news release.

“The issue of independent review and openness of the review process was a common thread in all of those complaints,” Melinda Richards, Foreman for the San Diego County Grand Jury said in an email to NBC 7 Investigates.

The recommendations outlined in the report for the Citizen Review Board include:

  • Provide independent legal counsel to the CRB
  • Prepare and submit annual reports of its actions
  • Revise the recruitment and appointment processes for board members to encourage broader citizen involvement
  • Provide limited compensation for board member time and involvement

The City of San Diego has until August to respond to the Grand Jury's recommendations.

San Diego City Council members and the City of San Diego’s Charter Review Committee have been discussing changes similar to the recommendations included in the Grand Jury report released Wednesday.

The 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.

According to the Grand Jury report, all local cities meet the state requirements for reviewing police behavior complaints but not all cities have a formal citizen oversight board.

“There is no mandate by the state that an oversight board exist,” Richards said. “The state requires a written procedure for complaint review. The Grand Jury believes a citizen oversight board ensures a more open process and increases trust in local law enforcement.”

In San Diego County, the Citizens Review Board handles cases within the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board, CLERB, handles cases from Santee, Vista, Lemon Grove, Poway, San Marcos, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Imperial Beach, Encinitas, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department including all deaths inside county jails and juvenile detention facilities.

The police agencies in El Cajon, La Mesa, Escondido, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Chula Vista, and Coronado review complaints internally and do not have a review process that involves the public, according to the report.

Click here to read the full report.

In the report, the Grand Jury recommendations for CLERB include:

  • Review CLERB recruitment and appointment processes to encourage broader citizen involvement.
  • Provide limited compensation for board member time and involvement.

The Grand Jury recommendation for the cities of El Cajon, La Mesa, Escondido, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Chula Vista and Coronado include:

  • Establish a Citizen Review Board or Commission or consider the formation of regional review boards that serve more than one jurisdiction

According to its report, the Grand Jury interviewed members of CLERB, the CRB, San Diego City Council members, police chiefs and Sheriff's Department staff’; it also surveyed the seven cities in the county that do not have independent review boards.

All cities provided a response, according to the report.

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