Santa Barbara Releases Draft of 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 Systems that is available for public review and comment.

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

Last month the Santa Barbara City Council directed the City Attorney’s Office to provide an overview of police-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 towards the city, one included the need for more transparency within law enforcement including the formation of 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 department’s internal affairs (IA) or professional standards process, or as a replacement for a department’s IA critical functions. They have greater access to records and police personnel and can act in an advisory or leadership capacity. This is the most staff-intensive and costly system. California cities that use this system include Berkeley, Long Beach, and San Francisco.

A Review-focused option examines internal investigations for quality control, but lacks independent investigatory authority as they rely on the police department’s original reports and then conducts an independent review of the results. The reviewer may issue independent findings and conclusions, or recommend further investigation or community outreach. This system is typically the least costly and least staff-intensive model. California cities that have some variation of a review-focused system include Claremont, Davis, Novato, Riverside, and Santa Cruz.

Auditor/monitor-focused systems often review data developed by hired analysts who report to a board or commission, with an eye for broad patterns in the quality of investigations, findings and degree of discipline. Based upon these data and depending upon the structure of the system, the auditor/monitor may make recommendations to the police chief, city administrator, a review board such as the Fire and Police Commission, or City Council. The primary 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 review systems. Hybrid models can exist in two ways, hybrid systems and hybrid agencies. In the first case, a board may have multiple functions, such as investigations and auditing. The latter may have two boards reviewing the department, such as an investigatory model for misconduct allegations and a separate advisory panel for reviewing policies and practices. The strengths and weaknesses of a hybrid system correlate with each component system, along with costs and resource requirements. California cities that use this model include Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Diego

“As a practical matter, hybrid systems are often the best choice for a city,” the report states.

The report intends to present information to facilitate a community discussion on 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:

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. Can we please drop this “bad apple” argument? The institution of policing as whole is the problem. Are you saying the Catholic Church also has just a few “bad apples” even though the institution protected those priests and moved them to other churches to molest more children? The Chief is reluctant to acknowledge this and is not listening. It’s unfortunate, being a woman in a toxic male dominated field you would think she would have the slight understanding of how systems are rigged.

  2. The City Councils and Board of Supervisors who allow contracts to be let to Unions that protect officers are complicit in the problem of institutional cover-ups in law enforcement agencies. They are aiding and abetting injustice! Unions must ONLY be able to negotiate salaries and benefits, NEVER police protections in their jobs in regard to how a suspect or situation is handled. I am appalled that elected officials can even do this. This must STOP NOW! This is anti-justice and immoral. These Union Contracts must be rescinded NOW! The Freedom of Information Act MUST be part of every aspect of the justice system including personnel files. There also has to be a complete change in the way police are trained.

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