Two ballot measures that Long Beach voters approved in the Nov. 8 elections are slated to overhaul a pair of city commissions—the Board of Water Commissioners will be retooled to oversee all public utilities, while a new Police Oversight Commission will replace the Citizens Police Complaint Commission. But it could take some time for both revamps to be completed.

The first comes as a result of the approval of Measure BB. In addition to allowing for a public utility commission that will oversee the management of water, sewer and gas services in the city, the ballot measure will also merge the city’s water and gas departments.

Combining the utilities under one commission and one department was promoted by city officials as a way to make their operations more efficient.

It’s unclear what the new department will be called, but Lauren Howland, a spokesperson for the Water Department, said it’s likely to be something simple, like “Long Beach Utilities” rather than the formal title spelled out in the charter amendment, which was the Public Utilities Department.

The current Board of Water Commissioners, meanwhile, will be renamed the Public Utilities Commission and will oversee the new Public Utilities Department, also created through the ballot measure.

Existing commissioners will be allowed to remain in place for the remainder of their existing terms. When those terms are up, the mayor and City Council will appoint and approve replacements, like they do for other city commissions. The five commissioners of the new utilities commission can serve up to two five-year terms, similar to the term limits for the current water commissioners. Time served by current members of the Board of Water Commissioners will still be counted when determining term limits even after the new commission is created.

Howland said the first official meeting of the Public Utilities Commission is expected to be held sometime in January.

The new Police Oversight Commission, for its part, is the result of Measure E, which has about 60% approval.

This commission will take a little bit longer to be implemented. City officials estimate it could take upward of 12 months to hire a new director and staff for the commission, appoint new commissioners and negotiate with the police and city employee unions on how the new commission will affect employees.

The new seven-member commission will replace the 11-person Citizens Police Complaint Commission. City Manager Tom Modica said existing commissioners will be allowed to continue work on complaints submitted by the end of 2022, but they will be replaced by new appointees once the seven-person commission is established.

The overhaul, though, will also have a significant impact on how the commission administers police oversight.

The CPCC, which had been criticized for decades for not delivering results, used a commission-led model, in which commissioners worked with independent investigators who looked into complaints parallel to the Long Beach Police Department’s internal affairs investigations.

CPCC commissioners would meet in closed session to determine if an officer’s actions were out of policy or violated some other rule and send their findings to the city manager’s office, which had the ultimate authority to discipline officers.

The new commission will not review individual cases and will not have its own independent investigators. Instead, complaints will need to be submitted to the Police Department, and its internal affairs division will perform the investigations into officer conduct. The commission’s new director will be able to audit investigations.

A city-hired consultant said this model could be beneficial because the director would be able to access files that the CPCC never had access to, and the director could be present at critical incidents and have the ability, with the city manager’s consent, to investigate major use-of-force incidents involving death or great bodily injury.

The director would also have the ability to investigate complaints against the police chief and command staff. The city manager’s office will still have the final authority on any officer discipline.

The director, though, will issue annual reports, and the commissioners will serve in an advisory role to the director, providing feedback and recommending areas of focus on based on community input.

The new director and additional staff is expected to cost the city about $900,000 per year, or about $300,000 more than it was spending on the CPCC staff. The City Council is expected to vote at its Dec. 6 meeting to approve a prorated portion of the new director’s salary so the city can start recruiting and hiring one.

The $191,336 total being requested from the City Council Tuesday is expected to be taken from the pool of money that the city had set aside for enforcing the $25 per hour health care worker minimum wage ordinance, which has now been put on hold until 2024 after a referendum on the pay increase qualified for the ballot earlier this month.

Long Beach wants to merge its gas and water departments; voters could decide in November

Long Beach to consider letting voters change how police oversight commission works

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