Santa Barbara Releases Draft Civilian Police Review Systems

Santa Barbara Police Department (courtesy photo)

By edhat staff

The City of Santa Barbara has released a draft report on a civilian police review system that is available for public review and comment.

The report was released on Friday and examines a wide range of civilian police review systems.

Last month, the Santa Barbara City Council asked the city attorney’s office to provide insight into police and civilian review systems following a protest against police brutality led by Healing Justice: Black Lives Matter SB. The activist group provided a list of demands for the city, one of which included the need for greater transparency within law enforcement, including the formation of a civilian review board with members selected by the community.

The report offers four police review systems to consider, as suggested by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.

Investigation-focused systems have their own professional staff who investigate complaints or alleged misconduct independently and parallel to a police service‘s internal affairs (IA) or professional standards process, or in lieu of critical functions AI of a service. They have greater access to records and police personnel and can act in an advisory or leadership capacity. It is the most labor intensive and expensive system. California cities that use this system include Berkeley, Long Beach, and San Francisco.

A review-based option reviews internal investigations for quality control, but has no independent investigative authority as it relies on original police department reports and then conducts an independent review results. The reviewer may issue independent findings and conclusions, or recommend further investigation or community outreach. This system is generally the least expensive and least labor-intensive model. California cities that have some variation of an exam-based system include Claremont, Davis, Novato, Riverside, and Santa Cruz.

Auditor/controller-focused systems often review data developed by hired analysts who report to a board or commission, keeping an eye on general trends in the quality of investigations, findings, and degree of discipline. . Based on this data and depending on the structure of the system, the auditor/controller can make recommendations to the chief of police, the city administrator, a review board such as the Fire and police or city council. The main cost of this model depends on the number of analysts assigned. California cities that use this model include San Jose, Anaheim, Fresno, Inglewood, and Sacramento.

Hybrid systems combine elements of the different civilian examination systems. Hybrid models can exist in two ways, hybrid systems and hybrid agencies. In the first case, a council can have several functions, such as investigations and audits. The latter may have two ministry review committees, such as an investigation model for allegations of misconduct and a separate advisory committee for policy and practice review. The strengths and weaknesses of a hybrid system correlate with each component system, as well as costs and resource requirements. California cities that use this model include Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Diego

“In practice, hybrid systems are often the best choice for a city,” the report says.

The report is intended to present information to facilitate a community discussion about the goals and methods of civilian review for Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Police Department. It will be discussed by the Santa Barbara City Council on July 21.

The full report is available here:

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