Did You Know? Bonnie Donovan
Did You Know? participated in the April 22 Santa Barbara City Council meeting to discuss a proposed, additional oversight board for the Santa Barbara Police Department.
We learned that it might be more appropriate to establish an oversight board for the decision-making process of the city council.
If we review the city council’s decision, under the leadership of former Mayor Cathy Murrillo, to create a new commission for designing the fifth method of oversight for the Police Department, what do we conclude?
First, the decision to order this effort was made under duress from the demands of Black Lives Matter activists, who have a foundational belief, without evidence, that all Santa Barbara police officers are infused with inherent, white privilege and institutional bias against all minorities. Already, Defund the Police actions were taking place in city councils across the country. Examples close to home are Portland, Ore., and Seattle.
But we must ask. Whatever were you thinking?
Where was the common sense? Where was fact-based decision making? Where was the logic? Where was fidelity toward your employees in an amazingly well-performing Santa Barbara Police Department?
Why did you believe that what happened in Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland is applicable to our policemen and women here?
Did you assume past, present and future cover-ups in wrongdoing among 210 members of our police department?
One hundred and forty-two positions are sworn police officers, but there are only 113 operational. Some of the missing 29 have left because of worries about the influence of Black Lives Matter over the city council. Even more are at risk of leaving, if this proposal goes through as designed.
Did you assume that none of the police and city administration supervisory staff were doing their jobs, or that the processes in place don’t function? Why do you need a neophyte, a police czar, in City Hall? The general public and we believe that is the function of the chief of police.
We were relieved to see some council members expressing buyers’ remorse after reviewing a proposal that was designed to apply to large cities with serious, criminal problems in the streets and behavioral problems in their police departments, such as in Minneapolis and Chicago. Why didn’t the city council closely supervise the Community Formation Commission to avoid the creation of a process, designed to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut in Santa Barbara?
If we boil down their conclusions, it appears they believe the police complaint reporting process is flawed and not transparent enough, because current procedures require that any person with a complaint about police behavior must report it to the police department, and too many complainants are afraid to do that. So their conclusion is that legitimate complaints are not made and therefore not dealt with and thus, the record is understated.
On July 21, 2020, a presentation was made to the city council reviewing police oversight designs in other cities.
As part of this presentation, the statement was made that “The Santa Barbara Fire and Police Commission (FPC) clearly has the power to recommend to the city council and city administrator rules and regulations and other actions concerning the operation and conduct of the police department.”
It went on to say that the city has not budgeted the commission to do that. It went on further to say that the city council could empower the existing commission by ordinance to undertake civilian review responsibilities if desired.
Did You Know? recommends that the city council takes this path with a specification of duties, transparency measures and a budget. This is to be created by the existing commission members, the chief of police and the city attorney, using all available pertinent data, to do this.
In that way, the council can achieve a civilian oversight process we can all support and, importantly, save up to $600,000 plus a year in additional costs and achieve a more efficient deployment of resources. These savings are sorely needed with current budget-funding shortfalls, demands and pleas for salary increases among city employees, and, importantly, $38 million of unfunded, employee pension obligations that need shoring up. FYI, city budget hearings start at 1:30 p.m. Monda, and you can watch them on channel 18.
However, the Citizens Formation Commission recommended creating a new oversight department, headed by a highly paid independent police manager, who has no police knowledge or experience.
As the title implies, his/her job would be to represent the public in managing the actions, procedures and training of members of the police department. It’s a funny thing, but Did You Know? thought that we employed the chief of police to do that.
As CFC said, the IPM will also educate the public on how to complain and conduct trends, etc.
However, the problem is that this process is unnecessary, redundant and costly. Already established are avenues to complain and to educate the public.
For complaints, go to the Fire and Police Commission, City Hall, the Santa Barbara City Council, Human Resources, the chief of police,the city attorney and a private attorney. For liaison with and education of the police department, the citizen’s academy, community policing, DARE, officers at the schools and coffee with a cop!
CFC scaled back its civilian oversight costs from $600,000 a year to $300,000 or $149,000. We don’t believe these numbers because they are a selling point, because of the adverse reactions to $600,000.
The training for the seven to nine volunteer commissioners is so exhaustive, that it resembles what an officer receives before he/she graduates from the academy, then years of hands-on training.
Commission members do not want any person on the new Citizen Overnight Board to have had police experience or training, although they backed off just a teeny bit on that. Then they requested that the Citizen Oversight Board members be paid $400 a month and get reimbursement for travel, education, child and eldercare.
We have a very educated police force with an exemplary record. There is no reason for taxpayers to bear the costs and adverse consequences of this proposal.
When one remembers the method by which the city council was coerced into the project, it is obvious that this is little more than a power grab that will create serious issues of morale and discontent within the police department. It might not be “Defund The Police,” but it is a way to get there.
One of the callers remarked that the room at the city council hearing seemed to be full of just white people and cops, which was far from the truth of the matter. However, why do we stand for such racist remarks when the idea is to promote civility? We were surprised that a blatantly racist comment by a call-in participant seemed to go unnoticed by council members, who could have paused the meeting to apologize to those in the room.
Now is the time for the council to shut down this adversarial mess before it gets worse. Make no mistake, almost everyone who spoke, except one, who made anti-white, racist comments, was polite and restrained.