The city’s new Police Oversight Commission, created to promote accountability and transparency on the part of the Santa Barbara Police Department, will meet for the first time next week.
The meeting of the five-member board, officially entitled the Fire and Police Commission, will take place on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 4 p.m., Barbara Andersen, senior assistant to the city administrator, told the News-Press.
It will be held in City Council chambers, 735 Anacapa St., starting at 4 p.m., and be broadcast live on City TV Channel 18.
“Each commissioner will take their Oath of Office prior to our first meeting,” Ms. Andersen said. “City staff is currently working on several key components of the new civilian oversight system including updated policies and procedures, the orientation and training program for commissioners, as well as the new structure for data and reporting requirements.”
The council approved the landmark ordinance in October to assign additional civilian police oversight duties to the commission to oversee the police and review citizen complaints in an effort to increase transparency, accountability and public trust.
“It is the single most significant step toward meaningful civilian oversight in our city’s history,” Mayor Pro Tem Megan Harmon said at the time. “That is a big, big deal.
“It took years to get here after years of advocacy and tons of public input,” she said. “Many people said this would never end up at a vote or become an ordinance. It is truly momentous.”
Under the new ordinance, reports detailing the total number and type of internal and external complaints received and subsequent action taken, as well as the number of officers disciplined and the level of discipline imposed, will be provided to the commission for its review.
The commission will also review and discuss individual investigations in open session with the police chief, once investigations are disclosable under the California Public Records Act.
Moreover, the police chief will make presentations to the commission regarding any officer-involved shootings. Those presentations will occur once the agency conducting such an investigation makes its determinations of finding.
Ms. Andersen will be the city’s liaison to the commission, and will receive and process citizen complaints about alleged police misconduct, provide an ongoing analysis of complaint trends and prepare reports for the commission in coordination with the Santa Barbara Police Department.
The council approved hiring an independent, outside consultant to give the city a hand in setting up the new system.
“As you know, the city retained Hassan Aden of The Aden Group, LLC as the experienced, independent police monitor professional that will be advising the City Administrator’s Office in implementation of the new civilian oversight system,” Ms. Andersen said. “His insights and extensive knowledge have already proven to be valuable to our efforts and I look forward to our continued collaboration.”
The commission’s five members were selected for service after being interviewed by the council on Dec. 6. The council appointed Linda Esparza Dozer, Lizzie Rodriguez and Ana Alicia Zepeda to four-year terms ending Dec. 31, 2026, and Daniel Robert Herlinger and Gary Jon Hill to two-year terms ending Dec. 31, 2024.
“The mayor and council embraced the importance of selecting commissioners that represent a diversity of life and professional experiences as well as honoring the two years of advocacy, hard work and community engagement that led us to this historic moment,” Ms. Andersen said. “We are excited to be working with such an esteemed group of community leaders.”