Members of the city’s Citizens Police Complaint Commission are concerned that the proposed model for police oversight in Long Beach could actually be worse than what the current commission is able to provide.

Polis-Change Integration, consultants hired by the city to help with the CPCC reform process, presented commissioners with their recommended path forward over the past week, which would include transitioning the CPCC into more of a public outreach role while a monitor would audit internal police investigations and watch the LBPD for systemic issues.

“I don’t see there being accountably at all in the city as it stands,” Commissioner Brent Walmsley said. “So taking a step farther from that, I don’t know what I’d do in community outreach if I’m not observing the cases and there’s some auditor doing it now. I can’t make sense of this.”

CPCC Chair Dana Buchanan said that the city has an opportunity to get things right this time around in proposing a change to the charter to voters, which could happen next year. Buchanan said it was important to ensure that the commission, or whatever replaces it, needs to be as independent as possible, calling the current CPCC a “paper tiger” used to “shut everyone up.”

“If the City Council is hiring the monitor, or the city manager is, then that person is beholden to them,” Buchanan said. “And let’s face it, the POA [Police Officers Association] funds a lot of their campaigns for re-election. I see that as a really massive elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about but it’s real.”

Buchanan asked why the CPCC couldn’t have its own attorney that wasn’t employed by the city to work for the commission. She also cast doubt on removing the commission from an investigatory role and letting the department investigate itself, pointing to the recent arrest of two LBPD officers for allegedly falsifying police reports over three years after the reports were filed.

“I’m just pretty disgusted in what I’ve seen in the last three years, and what I’ve heard from people,” Buchanan said.

While the full report that will be presented to the City Council for consideration has yet to be completed, Kathryn Olson of Change Integration said that the commission could play a role in the hiring process of the auditor position.

The commission also agreed to change the verbiage away from auditor-monitor to “inspector general,” something Olson said auditor-monitors are commonly called in other jurisdictions because they serve the same basic roles.

The inspector general would have the ability to monitor internal investigations into the department, including ones that wouldn’t typically make their way to the CPCC because they involve officers reporting other officers for violations.

They would also review all major use of force cases and have access to documents and data commissioners do not currently have access to due to state laws protecting officers’ privacy.

The inspector general would also be able to investigate certain types of complaints, like those against the chief of police or other higher-ranking officials in the apartment, shootings and in-custody deaths, however, they could only do that if requested by the city manager’s office.

“It’s a different approach that increases authority,” Olson said of the proposed model.

Olson said the current model is limited in part by state law and the CPCC’s focus on individual investigations, which triggers the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights and limits the commission’s access to information. Access to information is also sometimes blocked by the city attorney’s interoperation of laws, Olson said.

Commissioner feedback is one of the last steps of the process before the City Council takes up potential CPCC changes, potentially as soon as February. The consultants have conducted interviews with internal and external stakeholders, one in-person public meeting, and a handful of virtual meetings to collect community input. A survey put out by the consultants received about 20 responses, according to Olson.

In total there were about 150 people interviewed or who attended public meetings, with possible overlaps from people attending multiple meetings, Olson said.

“I think it’s a pretty respectable number,” Olson said, adding that more meetings likely would not have led to significantly more participation. “I don’t know if there’s a magic number.”

Because the CPCC was created through a charter reform process in 1990 the kinds of changes that are being proposed will require another charter reform that voters could decide next November. Deputy City Manager Kevin Jackson said Tuesday that hearings by the council could be held in June and July with the council having to vote on placing the item on the November ballot by Aug. 9.

In addition to wanting to play a role in the hiring of the inspector general, the commission said it also would like for ongoing evaluations of the new oversight model to be part of the reform language. Whether the “C” in CPCC will stand for “Citizen” or “Civilian” was left unresolved by the commission Tuesday night.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.