Consultants propose giving an auditor more oversight over police complaints, investigations

Consultants hired by Long Beach to help retool its Citizens Police Complaint Commission presented a final draft report Friday with proposed changes that could dramatically affect the way the commission functions, and how the city investigates alleged police misconduct.

Polis Solutions and Change Integration were hired by the city earlier this year to help with the process of fixing the CPCC, which many community members said was broken, and political leaders vowed to fix it in the wake of civil unrest that stemmed from George Floyd’s murder in May 2020.

The 11-member CPCC was formed through a ballot measure in 1990 but has failed to live up to the type of checks it was promised to impose on the city’s police department. Large changes to its composition will also require a charter reform, which is expected to be placed on the November 2022 ballot.

In a report presented to the City Council’s Public Safety Committee Friday, the consultants proposed the city pivot to an “auditor/monitor” model that would include a five-person staff led by the auditor that would have “broad, direct access” to LBPD information and databases.

The auditor would also review all major use of force incidents and have the authority to investigate issues like complaints against the high-ranking LBPD officials like the chief of police as well as police shootings and in-custody deaths.

They would also address systemic issues within the department from operations and procedures to policy and training. The LBPD would have to respond to the auditor’s recommendations within 30 days with a plan to adopt recommendations or explain why it is rejecting them.

LBPD internal affairs would still conduct all investigations and the auditor would audit a sample of those completed investigations every month. The projected cost of the auditor/monitor model is about $700,000, more than triple what is currently budgeted for investigators and the CPCC’s manager.

Deputy City Manager Kevin Jackson said that the city manager would retain the role of handing out discipline and the power to overturn recommendations, something that the office has been criticized for doing after commissioners voted to uphold findings against officers.

Under the proposed changes, the commission itself would no longer review complaints itself but would provide input to the auditor and review and approve recommendations from the auditor.

The commission would receive briefings on high-profile incidents, give feedback on annual reports and give direction for areas of focus for future audits, but the meetings themselves would serve more as a public engagement tool, according to the proposed changes.

The proposal does not give the CPCC or the auditor/monitor what the community has frequently called for during public meetings, such as subpoena power and a body that has actual oversight over the police department.

Other short-term changes that won’t require a ballot measure were also proposed Friday, including changing the CPCC name to use the word “Civilian” instead of “Citizen,” putting in writing how the CPCC interacts with Internal Affairs and providing the commission with more evidence and analysis prior to votes.

To improve transparency for people filing complaints, the consultants recommended more communications be sent to those with pending complaints to provide updates and outline the process and expected timeline for their case to be decided. The consultants also suggested that the city manager meet with both the commission and Internal Affairs to explain why decisions to uphold or overturn recommendations were made to provide more transparency for the commission.

A virtual meeting is scheduled for Dec. 14 for the public to be given a similar presentation, and a final report is expected early next year. The City Council will be presented with the report and could vote to place CPCC reforms on the November 2022 ballot for residents to decide.

You can register for the Dec. 14 public meeting here. A public survey to get community feedback on possible changes for the CPCC can be accessed here

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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