Members of Santa Barbara’s new Fire and Police Oversight Commission will be required to undertake a comprehensive orientation and training program, city officials said Wednesday.
“We are committed to facilitating these trainings as part of the public meetings as much as possible because we believe it is also information and education that will help strengthen broader community understanding of the work of the police and fire departments,” Barbara Andersen, senior assistant to the city administrator, told the News-Press.
“Therefore, in the months ahead, the public can anticipate standing procedural and administrative items on the commission agendas, but also trainings and presentations on a number of topics including departmental budgets, the complaint process, use of force policy and investigation process, as well as SB 2 state reporting requirements, just to name a few,” she said.
The five-member Fire and Police Oversight Commission, created to promote accountability, transparency and public trust, will meet today for the first time.
The meeting will be held in City Council chambers, 735 Anacapa St., and be broadcast live online and at City TV Channel 18.
It is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. and is expected to last about two hours, “but of course, with public comment and discussion/questions from the commission it could be longer,” Ms. Andersen said.
Each commissioner will take their oath of office prior to the first meeting.
Police Chief Kelly Gordon and Fire Chief Chris Mailes will be addressing the commission, and Ms. Andersen will be present as staff liaison from the City Administrator’s Office. “There will also be staff support from the City Attorney’s Office as well as the Fire Department and Police Department,” she said.
The commission will meet monthly on the fourth Thursday at 4 p.m. This will vary in November and December due to the holidays. Special meetings may also be scheduled to accommodate significant and timely issues and/or commission training requirements.
The meeting agenda is required to be posted 72 hours before the meeting, “but we are committed to posting it earlier than that to increase accessibility and bridge greater understanding,” Ms. Andersen said.
She stressed that the commission will not be investigating individual complaints or receiving reports on individual complaints, but “will receive scheduled quarterly reports and annual reports with data pertaining to their oversight responsibilities.”
The council approved the landmark ordinance in October to assign additional civilian oversight duties to the commission to oversee the police and fire departments.
City Councilmember Mayor Megan Harmon called it “the single most significant step toward meaningful civilian oversight in our city’s history.”
“It took years to get here after years of advocacy and tons of public input,” she said at the time. “Many people said this would never end up at a vote or become an ordinance. It is truly momentous.”