The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday will receive a presentation on civilian police review systems.
The council will be asked to direct the city attorney and other city staff to conduct informational public workshops in conjunction with representative groups to gather community feedback on review needs and concerns, while also providing direction for other future actions that the council deems appropriate, according to the staff report.
On June 9, the council directed the City Attorney’s Office to provide an overview of the police civilian review systems. The report will not provide an evaluation of the Santa Barbara Police Department or recommendations in favor of any particular review system, the staff report reads.
“This report does present information to facilitate community discussion on the goals and methods of civilian review for Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Police Department. While this report focuses upon the ‘police’ or the Santa Barbara Police Department, we recognize that the City’s Airport, Parks and Recreation, and Waterfront Departments each have peace officers who could be part of a civilian police review system,” the staff report states.
Civilian police review efforts trace back to the 1920s, though they only focused on reviewing actions and ultimately faded in time. Review boards gained renewed interest after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and into the 1970s.
Currently, there are more than 140 variations of review boards around the country, including 33 in the state. Sixteen run out of chartered cities like Santa Barbara.
Overall, the goals of the review systems include: increasing police accountability; building trust between the community and the police; eliminating bias and implicit bias; demystifying police internal affairs investigations; deterring police misconduct; ensuring due process of law for all involved parties; increasing the transparency of police operations; and involving the community in the creation of policing standards.
“While there are many ways to establish civilian police review, each system seeks to influence and change police practices to help ensure that community law enforcement is constitutional, effective, and responsive to the standards, values, and needs of those served,” the staff report reads.
Successful review systems include the organizational structure of the system, desirable powers and processes, and integrating civilian review with existing internal procedures.
The goal of the future public workshops will be to gather community feedback on the civilian police review needs and concerns.
Also on Tuesday, the council will discuss a resolution to receive permanent local housing allocation funds from Senate Bill 2 totaling $453,109 in the first year, and an estimated $2.7 million over five years.
To receive the funds, the city must submit an application and a brief five-year plan that states which eligible activity the city intends to fund. A resolution approving the application must also be included.
City staff recommends using the funds to assist those who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless over the program’s five-year plan. The need for the funding was outlined when the council declared the existence of a shelter crisis in the city due to the high number of unsheltered homeless individuals, which made the city eligible to receive Homeless Emergency Air Program funds.
The 2019 Point in Time count of homeless individuals found that 887 people were experiencing homelessness in the city. The count also found that countywide, almost half of those counted were recently homeless. Of those experiencing homelessness, 31% had mental health or brain issues, 28% suffered from a physical disability, 34% suffered from a chronic health condition and 17% suffered from substance abuse.
City staff recommends that approximately $330,000, or 73%, of the city’s allocation will be used to contract with City Net for street outreach services.
The city’s HEAP grant funds are set to expire at the end of June 2021 and no new HEAP funding will be available. The PLHA grant would enable City Net to provide more citywide outreach, such as case management and development of individual housing-stabilization plans. The remaining funding would be used to hire an additional rental housing mediation specialist, which would provide free assistance to tenants and landlords. In addition, the specialist would provide free mediation services, with a focus on tenants facing eviction from their homes or termination of their leases, according to the staff report.
In other business, the council will discuss an appeal of the Parks and Recreation Commission’s action to deny the removal of a street tree at 1721 Gillespie St.
As part of the meeting’s consent calendar, the council is expected to adopt an ordinance for a 50-year water supply agreement with the Montecito Water District.
Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. It will be broadcast on cable channel 18 and streamed live at www.santabarbaraca.gov/citytv.