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|Memo on Santa Monica Police Reforms Published|
Memo on Santa Monica Police Reforms Published
By Ann K. Williams
May 16, 2011 – The city manager published a memo from the chief of police last week detailing reforms in police practices stemming from an independent review of a botched investigation of School Board member Oscar de la Torre, but some are asking him to do more.
The move came after City Manager Rod Gould promised the council at the February 22 meeting that he would publish a new report within 90 days letting the City Council know what reforms were being put into place. The initial report by the Office of Independent Review (OIR) presented at that meeting indicated a number of violations of proper police practice.
While top City officials believe that publishing the report on the city's website fulfills the city manager's promise, some, including de la Torre, feel is not enough and that Gould should return with the report to address the council at a public meeting.
“We're all about transparency and accountability here,” de la Torre said, adding that the report should be open for public discussion at a City Council meeting.
De la Torre, who was investigated by police for allegedly acting too slowly to break up a fight between two young men in 2010, claims police improperly targeted him.
“The root cause (of the improper investigation) was bias, selective enforcement and discriminatory police practices,” said de la Torre.
Several City Council members seemed to have expected Gould to return before the sitting council, judging from their responses during the February meeting.
Among them was Council member Bobby Shriver, who told The Lookout Saturday that “my understanding was that this was going to be reported back to the public at a City Council meeting.”
The community deserves to have the report discussed before the council, Shriver said, and he plans to discuss placing the report on the agenda with the city manager's office.
But other council members said that they are satisfied with Gould's response.
“I really didn't read into (Gould's comments) to think there was a necessity to have another council meeting” on the subject, said Mayor Richard Bloom.
“He said he'd let the community know in 90 days, and that's exactly what's happened,” Bloom said.
Council member Kevin McKeown agreed.
“Not only has the May 10 update been brought before the City Council, it's been brought before the whole community in an extremely transparent fashion,” McKeown said.
For his part, Gould is satisfied that he's done exactly what he promised.
At the February meeting, he said, “We have committed to publishing a report in 90 days on progress toward implementing all seven recommendations” of the OIR's review.
“If any member of the council wants to place it on the agenda, they can do that,” Gould told The Lookout Friday.
But implementing changes to police practices is “getting into the realm of administration,” he said, while the council is responsible for setting policy and giving staff general direction.
Gould did reemphasize his commitment to “follow (the process of reform) through to the end.”
Still, de la Torre didn't think the changes enumerated in the latest report would be enough. The changes include better report writing, beefing up the review process and training investigators in the latest interrogation techniques from the Behavioral Analysis Training Institute, which Police Chief Timothy Jackman calls “the best source of this type of training.”
“They need to deal with the rotten apple in the bunch,” de la Torre said, referring to Police Sgt. David Thomas, the lead investigator in the case against him, a case which prosecutors declined to press.
Thomas was “a seasoned veteran, not an untrained rookie,” said de la Torre, and better training isn't going to do away with the discrimination he claimed he was a victim of.
“Who's going to police the police?” de la Torre asked.
The police department is conducting an internal investigation and when it is concluded, Gould said, “I will take appropriate action.” Until then, individual employees' rights are protected by the constitution, he said.
“My understanding was that this was going to be reported back to the public at a City Council meeting.” Bobby Shriver
“Not only has the May 10 update been brought before the City Council, it's been brought before the whole community in an extremely transparent fashion.” Kevin McKeown
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