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San Diego Police Chief Search Wraps Up Community Forums

Community members participate in a public forum on the city of San Diego's search for a new police chief, Oct. 4, 2017.
Tarryn Mento
Community members participate in a public forum on the city of San Diego's search for a new police chief, Oct. 4, 2017.
San Diego Police Chief Search Wraps Up Community Forums
San Diego Police Chief Search Wraps Up Community Forums GUEST: Danell Scarborough, facilitator, San Diego police chief community forums

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. When Shelley Zimmerman was selected as a police chief in 2014, the process was quick. Her promotion from assistant chief to chief was quick for some people who would've preferred a more in-depth search. This time with her retiring in March a nationwide search is underway including an outreach program to find out what San Diegans want to see in a new chief. The last of six community forums on the subject wrapped up last night and joining me is the facilitator for the meetings, Danell Scarborough , facilitator, San Diego police chief community forums. First of all how would you characterize the level of interest in the community about these forums? There were some that were extensively engaged and then a few that were on the smaller side. Even the smaller forums had hearty participation in robust input. How did you go about getting that hearty participation and robust input? When you what we did not wanted to be typical public hearing where people came to the mic and said their opinion and then disengaged after that. We designed a process that the committee would have a conversation with itself first and then report their beams out to the larger group. They were encouraged to come to consensus, find the top priorities that they wanted to put a chart and then we have each of the tables make a presentation to the larger fully assembled group about what they thought their critical answers to the questions were. Where there common themes that you heard in these forms? The first question that we asked was what needs to be the priorities that the next chief will focus on. There were common themes moving back to commitment to community oriented policing, retention and recruitment of a diverse multi cultural workforce and then retention with salary health and wellness, addressing profiling and bias was consistent across workshops. I think restorative justice and investment for youth in that kind of a resolution. Those were on the priority level. There were consistencies in the characteristics integrity, leadership, a commitment to transparency and accountability. People asked for that in that process as well as that being the leadership style of the new police chief. Something that was unique that came up he asked for somebody who had a broader background and bases than just law enforcement. That they had a broad perspective of community issues. Another important thing that came out was dedication to training. Whether that was in de-escalation techniques or bias or how to help mentally ill since that was -- is a spike and addressing homeless issues. Did the meetings get heated? Were there moments of tensions that you had to defuse? I think as people presented their tables -- table discussions, they did so with passion and emotion and assertiveness. I was extremely impressed that people respected each other's opinion in the process. We did not have any volatile situations, but people came and spoke with their full voice. What comments or concerns stand out for you when you think back to these six community meetings? There was a consistent theme in terms of request for the transparency of the selection process. Not just transparency as the new police chief conducts his or her business. I think that was a standout is these forms are important for us to have input. We want to continue being engaged in this process. There is a term that really struck you cultural humidity -- humility. Yes being culturally sensitive. A phrase that I heard felt to me new and different. It was a request of a characteristic to be culturally humble knowing that you don't know everything. There is no way to keep track of everything all the time. So approaching the situation with humility that says I'm here to learn and take in and be respectful. I've done a lot of work in these issues. I liked how that phrase captured cultural humility, and openness to learn, engage and to respect the diverse communities that we have here in San Diego. The first step is to have their recruitment firm that is been selected use this to fashion the job announcement so that what it's both local and national search They will take this And have these be part of the qualifications that we announce that we are looking for and then the synthesis of this information will be provided to the Council in a report and in the same way the workshops and the videotapes of the workshops have been put on the website and the synthesis of the themes that have emerged will be available for the community to see as well. Had been speaking with Danell Scarborough . Thank you very much. Thank you.

When Shelley Zimmerman was selected as San Diego's police chief in 2014, the process was quick and uncomplicated. But her promotion from assistant chief to chief was a little too quick for some, who had pushed for a more in-depth search for a new top cop.

With Zimmerman retiring in March, San Diego is undertaking that more thorough search. The city is looking nationwide for her replacement and hosted a series of six community forums across the city to find out what San Diegans want to see in a new chief. The last of those forums wrapped up Tuesday night in San Ysidro.


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At each forum, participants are asked for the top issues the next chief should address and what qualities they should possess. City officials are expected to announce their final pick in January.

Facilitator Danell Scarborough, former executive director of San Diego's human relations commission, said people's priorities have been pretty consistent: a focus on community policing, better recruitment and retention, and a focus on reducing bias and profiling.

San Diegans can also submit their feedback to the city online through Friday.

Scarborough joined KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday with more on what she's heard from the community forums.