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Amended Ballot Initiative For SD Commission on Police Practices Released

The San Diego Police Department headquarters is shown in this updated photo.

Credit: Milan Kovacevic

Above: The San Diego Police Department headquarters is shown in this updated photo.

The San Diego City Council is slated to vote next week on its intent to forward an initiative to the November ballot that would create an independent commission on police practices, which is available for review by the general public Thursday.

The proposed Commission on Police Practices would review all deaths stemming from interactions with San Diego police, as well as all police shootings.

Investigations into these matters would be conducted whether or not a complaint has been made against a particular officer or the department as a whole. Commission staff or contractors operating independently of the police department would conduct the investigations.

The commission may — but would not be required to — investigate complaints against officers not involving deaths or officer-related shootings, according to the proposed measure's language. The proposed body would have subpoena power to call witnesses or request records related to its investigations.

The latest version of the proposed initiative, released Wednesday night, includes the addition of an appeals process for any officer the commission finds committed sustained incidences of misconduct. Appeals would be handled by the city's Civil Service Commission.

Other incidents the commission could consider investigating include use of force by officers resulting in great bodily injury, "dishonesty" by an SDPD officer relating to "the reporting, investigation or prosecution of a crime," incidents that have "generated substantial public interest or concern," patterns of misconduct by officers or patterns of "inappropriate policies, procedures or practices by the police department or its members."

The commission could also make recommendations to the police department on disciplinary decisions for officers, though the chief of police "retains authority and discretion to discipline subordinate employees in the police department."

The parameters of the commission, including the number of members, term length, qualifications and method for appointing members, will be determined by the city council. Additionally, the body would replace the city's Community Review Board on Police Practices, which lacks the investigatory powers of the proposed commission.

"I am looking forward to giving voters the opportunity to bring more transparency and accountability to public safety in San Diego," said City Council President Georgette Gomez. "A truly independent commission is essential to making law enforcement officers more responsive and more accountable to the people they serve. I thank my colleague, Councilmember Monica Montgomery, for her persistent leadership on this critical issue."

The San Diego City Council will vote at its June 23 meeting on two actions related to forwarding the measure to the November ballot. These include a resolution ratifying an agreement between the city and the San Diego Police Officers Association to establish the commission and a resolution stating the city council is declaring its intent to submit the measure to voters.

A statement from Gomez's office says further council action will be needed before the measure can be officially forwarded to the ballot.

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