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Measure To Overhaul Police Oversight Dies At San Diego City Council

A San Diego police officer with a police dog waits outside a house with a pos...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: A San Diego police officer with a police dog waits outside a house with a possible suspect inside Friday, July 29, 2016.

A measure proposed for the November ballot to overhaul civilian oversight of San Diego police officers failed at the City Council on Monday, after council members deadlocked on whether to start talks about the issue with the police officers' union.

The activist group Women Occupy San Diego first proposed the ballot measure in February. It would have amended the city charter to abolish the existing Community Review Board on Police Practices and create a new independent commission with the power to conduct its own investigations into complaints of officer misconduct.

Earlier this month, the City Attorney's Office indicated the measure would require a "meet and confer" process with city employee unions whose members could be affected by the measure. A motion to initiate that process failed in a 4-4 tie, with council members Myrtle Cole, Barbara Bry, David Alvarez and Georgette Gomez — all Democrats — voting "yes."

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Councilman Scott Sherman opposed the motion, saying the meet and confer process could not be completed by the Aug. 10 deadline for forwarding ballot measures to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters.

"To get to a ballot coming up this November, there's no way we could get through this process," Sherman said. "We could have a conversation about the next election in a couple of years, but I don't see how we could get through it today."

Also opposing the meet and confer process were council members Chris Ward, Lorie Zapf and Mark Kersey. Ward, a Democrat, initially supported forwarding the ballot measure to the full City Council at a meeting of the Rules Committee earlier this month, but on Monday sided with Republicans Zapf, Kersey and Sherman to allow the ballot measure to die.

"Councilmember Ward supported this item at Rules Committee because it is important for the full City Council to hear the community's concerns," Ward spokesman Ansermio Jake Estrada said in an email. "After today's discussion of the item, he did not feel it was realistic or even possible to accomplish what was before Council by the August 10th deadline."

The Community Review Board on Police Practices reviews investigations by the San Diego Police Department's Internal Affairs division, but does not have the power to subpoena witnesses or conduct its own investigations. Critics say the board lacks independence and community members do not trust the process by which complaints against officers are reviewed.

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The measure was first heard by the City Council Rules Committee in April. The committee voted to delay further consideration of the measure until after it could gather feedback from the police union, the police chief and members of the existing review board. It voted to revisit the measure in June, but Council President Cole, the committee's chair, did not place the item on the agenda until July.

Anne Barron, a representative of Women Occupy San Diego, expressed frustration that Cole's office had waited so long to bring the item to the full City Council for consideration, and that the City Attorney's Office did not raise the meet and confer issue earlier.

"We followed all the rules in bringing our proposed charter amendment to the City Council," she said. "We would have preferred that this had been dealt with right in the beginning in April."

A measure proposed for the November ballot to overhaul civilian oversight of San Diego police officers failed at the City Council, after no majority agreed to start talks on the measure with the police officers' union.

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