San Diego Commission on Police Practices impeded by slow transition chair says
Speaker 1: (00:00)
As the long transition to a new San Diego police review board continues members of the old board are issuing a red flag warning members of the old review board have been acting as transitional members of the new commission on police practices. But there's a catch. The original 23 members have dwindled soon down to 13. The commission chairman says that's not enough to keep up with a growing caseload of complaints against police and rules on appointing. New commission members may not be approved by the city council until next year. Joining me is commission chair, Brandon Halpert, and Brandon. Welcome to the program.
Speaker 2: (00:39)
Thank you. Glad to be here.
Speaker 1: (00:41)
Why is the commission on police practices losing so many transitional members
Speaker 2: (00:46)
Back before we had measure B that passed, we sent a memo to the city council, letting them know that both, uh, the city attorney and our outside council had basically suggested once that measure passes, that we would not be able to add new commissioners until the city council had create and passed and implementation ordinance. So right now the city council is currently working on that process. That's the reason why we're we're in that little bit of a, a holding pattern. So basically, you know, ever since the ballot measure passed, uh, we have not been able to add any new interim commissioners. So our, our volunteers, usually we, we try to say normal times, people volunteer anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of month. Uh, right now for many of our volunteers, the minimum is probably 20. And in some cases, people are doing anywhere from 80 to a hundred, uh, hours a month with so
Speaker 1: (01:30)
Many commission members leaving. What kind of caseload is each remaining member
Speaker 2: (01:34)
Handling? Yeah, it's, it's increased. So, um, typically in an average year, uh, we'll probably close about 60 cases. Um, and that includes everything from individuals complaining that they were arrested when it shouldn't have been. It also includes officer involved shootings and in custody deaths. So the number on average, it is usually about 60 year. Um, last year in fiscal year 21, we closed about 125. So it has increased quite a bit. So it's just, we're kind of in this sticky area where we can't add new commiss, especially as we've lost some, so the workloads going up, we have fewer people doing it, which is taking longer for us to be able to do our review of cases, uh, which, you know, as, as you probably know the community, I think expects and demands that there is civilian oversight of police officers and, and complaints against them.
Speaker 1: (02:18)
How do you think this situation affects the public?
Speaker 2: (02:21)
Well, I think part of it is it's, it's very frustrating when someone files complaint, because it does take quite a long time. I think people feel that, you know, once you file a complaint, it's gonna be addressed and, and investigated and, and you know, maybe two, three months later, they're gonna find out what the resolution is. It takes a long time. So sometimes we've had, you know, almost a year before someone who filed a complaint, finds out what the resolution of their case is. And, you know, that's obviously very frustrating. You wanna find out if you think something that was done incorrectly, you would like to know sooner than later, you know, that, that an officer, you know, either was exonerated, meaning that maybe they did it, but it was within policy or if it was stained, meaning that they did do it and they will be disciplined.
Speaker 1: (02:56)
Do you know why it's taking the city council so long to establish the rules for selecting new commission members?
Speaker 2: (03:02)
We had initially recommended that the city do it in two steps, the first step being something that wouldn't really be controversial. And then you could hopefully implement a component of that. And you could create the criteria of how commissioners would be selected, how they would be appointed and confirmed. Ultimately the city council, uh, chose not to do that. They wanted to do all in one group, which I kind of understand part of it, but we also just know that once it goes through meet and confer, and especially with all the complexities that come in with this, this new measure, you know, the POA, the, the police officers union is probably gonna be taking a long time during meet and confer. Um, because we are going to be able to have the ability to independently invest to officer involved shootings and in custody deaths. So just that component along, uh, we feel is probably gonna take a decent amount of time going through, meet and confer. And we would prefer that the appointment of commissioners not go through that lengthy process, you know, and part of it too, is we have many commissioners who, who have been on, you know, you're only supposed to be on for a total of eight years. And since we can't add new people, we can allow people to stay on its commissioners until they're replaced. So we have some members who, who to be honest. I mean, they, they put in their time and, and I think they're, they're ready to move on to other opportunities.
Speaker 1: (04:08)
You know, when asked by the San Diego union Tribune, Andrea St. Julian who wrote the measure, B amendment said, supporters never wanted the old commissioners to act as interim commissioners because they, and trust them. So she would like to see new commissioners appointed sooner, too. Do you think that will help your effort?
Speaker 2: (04:27)
Well, it's not completely true. She actually did. When she wrote the measure, she did design the measure to allow all the existing CRB members to serve as in interim commissioners. Now, uh, I would agree. I don't think any of us thought it would take this long. There is some community feedback that they wanna replace everybody all at once. Um, the commission did, you know, the interim commission did make a recommendation to city council. Um, we would think that it makes the most sense to at least keep some of the existing commissioners on just because of the institutional knowledge that they carry. Part of it is, you know, and I always tell people, this is when I first started on, on the, the board at the time. It, it really takes about six months just to get up to speed and understand and learn what the policies and procedures are.
Speaker 2: (05:08)
And, you know, and I, I think, you know, in general it probably takes another six months to get good at it. So if you were to replace all of the commissioners all at once, you'd have potentially a year where you have, you know, community oversight that may not be fully up to speed on what policies teachers are and you know, how the process works. So it is taking a lot longer. I mean, it is a complicated process. I think part of it's the city council wants to make sure that they're getting it done correctly, which is why I think we've already had three drafts of it going forward. But, um, it's, it's, unfortunately it's not as easy as we expected bottom
Speaker 1: (05:38)
Line. Brandon, do you think the public is being hurt by this delay in appointing new members of the commission on police practices?
Speaker 2: (05:46)
Not yet. I mean, I do think, I mean, I, I do have to thank all of our commissioners because they've been putting in, you know, countless hours to be able to make sure that there is civilian oversight of, you know, our police department. And I think that's important. Um, we do have several members who are, as I said, are officially termed out. Um, and a couple members have actually expressed interest to resign, but they've chosen to stay on because they feel it's very important that this, this type of community oversight continues. So we're not there yet. Um, you know, obviously if we're getting down to 13 commissioners, almost half of what we should be, you know, it is gonna put a strain on it. And, and as we were talking about earlier, you know, it's gonna take longer for us to be able to review cases, um, which can be problematic, especially if we had multiple cases that had sustained findings and we do try to prioritize those. So those go forward first, but to be honest, you know, all volunteer commission, can't keep up with the workload that we have. And especially if we have additional commissioners that have to resign for any reason, you know, it's gonna more work on the existing commissioners that we have, which is gonna continue kind of the downward spiral and, and potentially make other commissioners decide to quit. If they can't continue the work effort.
Speaker 1: (06:48)
I've been speaking to interim commission, share Brandon Halpert of the commission on police practices. Brandon, thank you so
Speaker 2: (06:55)
Much. My pleasure. Thank you.
San Diego voters overwhelmingly passed Measure B in 2020 to create a new independent commission with civilian oversight of the San Diego Police Department. The process to implement the new commission, however, has been slow moving, leaving an interim commission impeded by a dwindling number of commissioners, as well as its inability to replace them.
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Rules on appointing new commission members may not be approved by the city council until Jan. 2023 , leaving the interim commission concerned about its effectiveness in keeping up with a growing caseload of complaints against police.
In a recent letter to the San Diego City Council, Brandon Hilpert, chair of the Commission of Police Practices urged the council to allow for new commissioners to be seated immediately.
"The workload is simply not sustainable," he wrote.
Hilpert joined Midday Edition on Tuesday to talk about why he wrote the letter, and what his concerns are about the length of the transition process.
"We're kind of in this sticky area where we can't add new commissioners, especially as we've lost some. So the workload is going up, we have fewer people doing it, which is taking longer for us to do our review of cases. The community I think expects and demands that there is civilian oversight of police officers and complaints against them," Hilpert said.