The Santa Barbara City Council hired an outside professional Tuesday to work as an independent police monitor to help with the new civilian oversight commission for the city’s police department.
But first, the council members had to overcome initial concerns that the new monitor might be perceived as “very pro-police.”
Councilmember Mike Jordan suggested pulling the item from the council’s consent calendar, saying he did some online research on Hassan Aden of The Aden Group LLC, recommended by staff to be retained as the police monitor.
“I don’t personally have a problem with a person being pro-police,” Councilmember Jordan said, but apparently some of the comments he read online voiced concern that consultant Hassan Aden might be considered biased in favor of police officers because of his decades-long position in two police departments, including serving as police chief for one of them, and his later experience as a federal police oversight decree monitor.
Barbara Andersen, senior assistant to the city administrator, reassured the council that that’s not the case with Mr. Aden.
She said staff interviewed seven potential consultants with a range of experience serving as independent police monitors and executives overseeing police oversight committees.
And Mr. Aden “struck me with his understanding of law enforcement and the depth of his compassion and lived experience on how the criminal justice system has affected underserved communities,” she said.
“He has the reputation, credentials and track record,” Ms. Andersen said, and is “respected as being impractical and unbiased.”
She noted the “incredibly difficult role” of an independent police monitor. “If you’re doing your job well, you’ll be disliked at some point by most people,” she said.
At the same time, Ms. Andersen said, someone considered to be adversarial to police might have a difficult time working with police departments from the get-go on any investigation of citizen complaints against officers.
She also recalled that some people were concerned about applicants for the Fire and Police Commission with backgrounds in law enforcement being unable to be impartial in reviewing police complaints filed by citizens — or at least being perceived to be biased, which could taint any commission findings.
The council, however, overrode such concerns by citing the value of such applicants’ personal experience. Council members decided that anyone with former law enforcement experience could apply for one of five seats on the Fire and Police Commission.
Twenty-four Santa Barbara residents have applied, and two of them have law enforcement experience. Councilmembers interviewed applicants Tuesday and are expected to name the commission’s five board members next Tuesday.
In addition to Mr. Aden, Ms. Andersen is slated to be the city’s own independent police monitor who receives and processes complaints about alleged police misconduct, provides an ongoing analysis of complaint trends and prepares reports for the commission in coordination with the Santa Barbara Police Department.
Ms. Andersen told the council she is looking forward to Mr. Aden “sharing his knowledge and experiences and imparting his lessons and knowledge on me” and city staff.
Mr. Aden, a 26-year-veteran of the Alexandria Police Department in Virginia, later served as police chief of the Greenville Police Department in North Carolina. He now serves as deputy monitor in the federal consent decree imposed on the Baltimore Police Department, overseeing all of the accountability requirements and managing various aspects of the team.
His concerns appeased, Councilmember Jordan agreed to leave the hiring of Mr. Aden on the council consent calendar, which authorized the city administrator to sign an agreement with The Aden Group for professional police monitoring advisory services for up to $67,200, covering the period from Dec. 6 to June 30, 2023.
Per usual, the council approved their consent calendar unanimously.