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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Police State and Prisons

On the Real and Present Need For a Citizens Public Safety Review Board
by Steve Pleich
Monday Dec 30th, 2013 11:55 AM
Citizen Oversight of Law Enforcement a Must
I have recently begun to read the very excellent treatise by local journalist John Malkin on the need for citizen oversight of law enforcement. But that work was completed in the early 1990s and the more I read John's observations about law enforcement, public safety and the role that citizens can play in both, the more I wondered what relationship that template and those observations had to present day Santa Cruz and to our common interest in the protection of individual rights, efficient community policing and the pursuit of public safety.

In my time as city resident and candidate for public office, I have seen a growing concern for public safety coupled with an expanding public mandate for law enforcement to use whatever means and methods they thought best to insure the safety of our community. Indeed, one does not need to be a social scientist to understand that the dynamic balance between protections of individual liberties and the need for public safety has shifted dramatically over the past few years. Particularly in light of the horrific incidents of violence that visited our city in the recent past, I have watched our elected officials support a marked and noteworthy increase in the number of sworn officers serving in the police department while seeming little concerned about the chilling effect heightened police presence inevitably brings. But it is not the expansion of the police department or the overarching presence of law enforcement in our community that concerns me most. It is the almost complete lack of citizen participation in the development of these policies and the complete absence of civilian oversight of this ever-expanding aspect of our community that occupies my thoughts and prompts these observations.

In his treatise, John rightfully observes that police officer training is almost entirely devoted to intelligence gathering, weapons proficiency and police procedure. They are only tangentially trained in nonviolent conflict resolution and community relations. And here I will say that this is not their fault. The officer on the street is only as good as the training he or she receives and clearly they are not receiving the kind of training and input that would create not only an enlightened police force mindful of individual liberties, but a more efficient one as well.

Every incoming police administration in recent times has called for a policy of community partnership to bridge the perceived divide between law enforcement and the citizenry it is sworn to serve. In point of fact, if this chasm were not real and existing, there would be no need to call attention to it as a matter of departmental policy. But what the department has failed to recognize is that our community also knows a few things about public safety. It knows that law enforcement alone cannot make the community safe. It knows that true public safety can only be developed and sustained in an atmosphere of trust and accountability. It knows that individual liberties are a bedrock value that must be honored and preserved. And it knows that community engagement is the foundation of wise and forward thinking public safety policy. So the question becomes: If we accept these statements as true, how are we to actualize them in ways that best benefit our community? And this brings us full circle to my original question: Do we have a present need for a Citizens Public Safety Review Board?

My answer is “Yes”.

I respectfully suggest the creation of a civilian review board tasked with oversight of our police department. Understand that when I say “oversight” I do not mean control. Such a board would be committed to ensuring that the City of Santa Cruz has a police department that acts with integrity and administers justice fairly and evenhandedly. However, to insure the independence of such a body, the board would directly consult with and advise the police department and would pass along advisory opinions to council for informational purposes only. That is the only way to “depoliticize” the process while creating a clear line of accountability between the community and the police department. This is a bold notion and one that requires the full measure of trust, accountability and community partnership that I have previously alluded to.

As so what form will this new, modern Citizens Public Safety Review Board take? If, as we say, the board is to be composed of citizen representatives charged with the review of police policies and procedures, it cannot, for example, be restricted to consideration of already completed internal police investigations into allegations of police misconduct. A truly reformist board must be given the power to conduct parallel investigations to supplement and inform those conducted by Internal Affairs. Although ultimate decisions would continue to be the province of the department and its chain of command, a civilian review board with independent investigative authority would have the power to make recommendations to the Chief concerning disposition and discipline.

On issues of operational policy and commitment of resources, any such board would need to have direct input to achieve any degree of real effectiveness. The obvious benefit of this input would be that resource allocation and priorities would more accurately reflect the community’s concern about how best to police and make safe our city. For example, if the board felt that public safety would best be served by spending more money on gang suppression and less on petty theft investigations, resources could be allocated accordingly. If the board recommended more money be devoted to the investigation of sexual assaults and less to enforcement of downtown behavior ordinances then that too could drive fundamental reallocation of resources. These are matters upon which reasonable minds will surely differ and will ultimately be the product on a long and comprehensive public input and review process. But it is a conversation we must have if a truly effective oversight process is ever to become a functional part of protecting individual liberties while making the community safe as a whole.

Finally, I will say this. I have always found some considerable fault with the idea that “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. And I say this just as the past specter of "Code Blue" may once again be rearing its hateful head. With due respect to Mr. Malkin, what I have observed from his work and the labors of others has certainly informed this process, but cannot in these modern times guide it. I believe we must make our own history and take from it the lessons we learn along the way. It is in that spirit that I offer the concept of a Civilian Public Safety Review Board for the consideration of the community.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by The ughster
Monday Dec 30th, 2013 3:37 PM
Here we go again..
Sure we need a Police Review Board. We always have but here we have more blah blah blah and
no actual proposal. Almost assuredly, we'll have to listen and read endlessly how Mr. Pleich
wrote about it but we know he doesn't actually support real initiatives. He staffs non-starter and do-nothing activist groups and then pats himself on the shoulder. Name an issue and he'll tell you how he once wrote about it on indybay or spoke about it during the cattle call before the board of supervisors.

"Yes" I say..

Lets see some action, big guy.
by Dan Waterhouse, Newslink Fresno
Monday Dec 30th, 2013 7:41 PM
Ok I'm going to bite. Probably foolish to, but Steve seems mired in the 1990s.

I served on the Fresno County civil grand jury three years ago. During that service, I participated in two inquiries into the role of the District Attorney's office and of the city's independent police auditor in investigating officer involved shootings. During those inquiries we looked at the status quo in civilian police review.

Civilian police review or oversight groups relied upon the bully pulpit of public hearings and news media reportage to reveal abuses. However that all changed with the State Supreme Court ruling in the Copley Press case. The ruling essentially shut down the bully pulpit. Because the Peace Officers Bill of Rights mandates all personnel matters to be confidential, open hearings ended. Officers involved in critical incidents could not be publicly identified in the oversight context. Police review professionals agreed immediately after the high court ruling that civilian police oversight as we had known it in California was over.

Hearings, if any, are now held behind closed doors. Public information released has names redacted. The LA Board of Police Commissioners took what was considered a bold step by making its findings in Categorical Use of Force incidents available on its website several years ago. ALL names are redacted from these summaries-even in cases where participants' identities are already public knowledge-in order to comply with court rulings and the POBoR.

While the concept of civilian oversight is abstractly desirable, given the state of the law in California I question its ultimate effectiveness.
by John Cohen
Tuesday Dec 31st, 2013 7:23 PM
Before jumping to the conclusion that just having some kind of civilian oversight of the SCPD is a desirable objective, I recommend we commence a study session on what kinds of police oversight work. Please study the following — this is just a starting point. I will read them as time allows. I ask others to take over from here.

Open then the gates and let the debate begin!!! I look forward to a vigorous, informed debate from many different POV's.

http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/Civilian_oversight.pdf

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/journalism/cases/katrina/Human%20Rights%20Watch/uspohtml/uspo22.htm

http://www.examiner.com/article/holding-police-accountable-through-citizen-oversight-investigation-recommendation

http://www.parc.info/client_files/Articles/1%20-%20Civilian%20Oversight%20of%20the%20Police%20(Bobb%202003).pdf

http://www.unodc.org/documents/justice-and-prison-reform/crimeprevention/PoliceAccountability_Oversight_and_Integrity_10-57991_Ebook.pdf

http://cpp.fullerton.edu/cpp_policeoversight_report.pdf


by buffalo chip!
Wednesday Jan 1st, 2014 12:00 AM
since steve proposes a toothless review board with no control or power, one could be started by activists. to me its value is pretty much limited to publicity. however, combine it with a complaint website, organized COPWATCH, and a legal collective to bring suit in federal court and you would have a powerful tool for exposing and eliminating police misconduct.

there is little interest though, even among hardcore activists. BAD COP SANTA CRUZ for instance hasn't been updated in years.
http://badcopsc.blogspot.com/
by Dan Waterhouse, Newslink Fresno
Wednesday Jan 1st, 2014 4:25 AM
buffalo chip.

An unofficial review group would simply be ignored by the City of Santa Cruz and the local mainstream media. As for suing in federal court, 95% of cases never get to a jury because of governmental immunity statutes, and in the cases that make it to trial, juries almost always side with the police agency.

Where a civilian group could have an effect is on policies and perhaps policing priorities.
by Robert Norse
Wednesday Jan 1st, 2014 5:14 AM
...the power of exposure and muckracking journalism. Police "review" wedded to institutional structures has never been effective, even prior to Copley. However the widespread social media makes you-tube a good medium for visually exposing the routine police whitewash or ignoring that follows every police abuse incident like clockwork. Media can also be a catalyst for direct action, flash mobs, and other means of protest that circumvent the petrified legal system of police protection.

If Pleich wants to get involved by actually Copwatching, showing up in court to assist in Small Claims court lawsuits, and putting his skills where his mouth is, this would be more than another in the familiar merry-go-round of self-promotion.

If he were to take seriously and demand acction on complaints that have been brought to the ACLU on which he sits as vice-chair, this would be less hypocritical hype and more innocent concern.
'
However, Steve jovially laughs off such criticisms and writes flowery letters of praise celebrating enablers of police abuse like Councilmember Bryant--which reduces the issue to another campaign tactic.

Those seriously interested in real community action to combat police abuse need to review the activist-exhausting history of Santa Cruz's Citizens Police Review Board (on which John Malkin sat before being driven off by now Deputy-Police Chief Steve Clark, who, Malkin reported, kept political files on him).

Private citizen groups need to convene their own commissions of inquiry, using video, audio, public records act, and witness testimony to inform the community of what the police have done. The fact that the police lobby in Sacramento and its pals on the California Supreme Court have insulated the abusers does not free us from the responsibility of exposing and acting.

Berkeley has Copwatch (see http://www.berkeleycopwatch.org/ ) as well as its own (heavily circumscribed and generally useless) Police Review Board

A recent report on Copwatching there and around the country: http://berkeleycopwatch.org/resources/Criminalization_of_Copwatching_2011.pdf

Santa Cruz's relatively toothless CPRB (Citizens Police Review Board) gets an analysis that ignores stronger criticism of its failure to have mandated public hearings, disciplinary powers, and independent investigations of use of force complaints which a number of homeless activists and groups pressed for in the early 90's. The reactionary Kelly Luckor of the Metro Santa Cruz (precursor to the Santa Cruz Weekly) wrote the following article: http://www.metroactive.com/papers/cruz/02.17.99/policereview1-9907.html at a time when the "progressive" majority of 1998 was taking power amid (false) hopes they'd provide some teeth to the review process.

In the meantime, keep (or start) posting videos of police harassment and abuse on you-tube and describing it on indybay.org and elsewhere.
by buffalo chip!
Wednesday Jan 1st, 2014 7:57 AM
"An unofficial review group would simply be ignored by the City of Santa Cruz and the local mainstream media. "
from what i hear official review groups are ignored as well.
as i said, and your earlier post explains why, review boards alone are toothless PR vehicles at best.

but local media almost has to cover well done CopWatch video like this:
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_23119065/santa-cruz-police-probe-videotaped-arrest-injury-conclude


"As for suing in federal court, 95% of cases never get to a jury because of governmental immunity statutes,"
police only have qualified immunity in federal court, if they violate rights clearly established in case law, they lose. 5% win rate is way better than the 0% win rate of lawsuits never filed.

"and in the cases that make it to trial, juries almost always side with the police agency."
bad juries can be dealt with in a Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict and you don't even need a trial to make big money off the pigs as an activist:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/07/03/1220926/-First-Occupy-Oakland-Lawsuit-Settled-for-1-17-Million#

CopWatch frightens the police more than a review board. i have seen police trying to discourage videotaping of their activities in santa cruz. they wouldn't do that if they weren't engaging in misconduct.

one good video is worth a thousand protest signs.
by Dan Waterhouse
Wednesday Jan 1st, 2014 8:11 AM
Buffalo chip. But qualified immunity that is rarely denied in federal district courts.

I realize you believe activists are all-powerful. But they're not. At some point they have to be able to convince the larger community they have a valid case. Otherwise they've wasted their time. You can videotape all the cops you want, but if the footage isn't seen by the mainstream along with a solid case for change, forget it.

In Fresno it took years to convince the city council to reluctantly fund an auditor for one year. The only reason it happened was that the mainstream media agreed with the agenda. Otherwise it would not have happened, video not withstanding. The video policing program has never been audited even though it's supposed to have been done several years ago. The mainstream media (and the public) has little interest in the subject, so there's no real pressure to get it done.
by buffalo chip!
Wednesday Jan 1st, 2014 10:44 AM
"qualified immunity that is rarely denied in federal district courts."
if your assertion is true, it is mostly due to the choice lawyer or a weak case.

" you believe activists are all-powerful...they have to be able to convince the larger community Otherwise they've wasted their time."
i believe doing something is better than doing nothing. %5 is better than 0%.

"In Fresno it took years to convince the city council to reluctantly fund an auditor for one year."
you make our point for us, official solutions are a mirage.

"the public) has little interest in the subject, so there's no real pressure to get it done."
exactly my point. even activists in SC have little real interest in it. however, brent's video above caused a friend of mine (not an activist) to go down to the police station to demand they do something about it. when the public sees police misconduct on video, they get mad at the police. sometimes it even leads to an uprising, like L.A. in 1992 or Egypt in 2011.
by John Cohen
( karma [at] cruzio.com ) Thursday Jan 2nd, 2014 1:22 AM
What Robert Norse and some others pointed out is exactly why I invented Gorilla Advocacy with the hope of expanding what I've learned into an effective nonprofit (using an effective strategy to win asymmetrical conflicts for disenfranchised groups and individuals):

http://www.facebook.com/GorillaAdvocacyInc

The basic premise is that the small local government gorilla controls all the local levers of power. It is necessary to appeal to outside government authorities — a bigger gorilla — to stomp on the local government gorilla. Inarguably, the smaller local gorilla and the larger federal one don't want to fight it out since they are usually friends.

But by leveraging information, I have exposed local gorilla corruption which is embarrassing the larger federal gorilla. I've been working the nonlocal news media for several years by providing them evidence of scandals in which the local government gorilla has embroiled the bigger federal government gorilla.

Naturally, the big gorilla looks after its own interests first and foremost. When the Santa Cruz gorilla is a big enough liability to the legitimacy of the big federal gorilla then they part ways and the bigger gorilla takes care of its interests not the stupid interests of a puny local government gorilla. At this point, I force the big gorilla to begin investigating the puny Santa Cruz gorilla.

This is accomplished by conducting Freedom of Information (FOI) and journalistic investigations using the tools of computer science: social media, online investigation, computer assisted reporting, social network analysis, databases, spreadsheets, digital media and Internet platforms for effective communication/persuasion.

I have accomplished this, gaining at least four HUD Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigations of Santa Cruz gorilla hijinks. There are more big gorilla investigations in the works. I filed two USDOJ discrimination complaints against the Santa Cruz City/County gorilla and their little monkey friends. I am actively lobbying the USDOJ and the U.S. Senate to unleash the big gorilla on puny Santa Cruz. I'm making headway. Last Friday, USDOJ investigator Jonathan Teitel commended me for my "aggressive advocacy" (on behalf of disenfranchised people in Santa Cruz).

I urge everyone to support my Gorilla Advocacy. The more micro-funding I receive, the more effective I can be at digging up dirt to force the federal gorilla to stomp on the puny Santa Cruz one.

Support my efforts — let the gorilla stomping commence!
by Robert Norse
Thursday Jan 2nd, 2014 4:56 AM
Though it's a sidenote, given the ineffectiveness of police review boards even before the Copley decision (Berkeley had the most powerful board and it was neutered by the courts in the 70's), it's a joke to think that auditors (such as that in Fresno, San Jose, and here in Santa Cruz) have any meaningful impact on police abuse.

Raising the issue of any kind of police review, however, means alerting the community to the reality of day-to-day police abuse and the growing intrusion of the police state. In so far as that kind of education is happening, it's good. But spreading the illusion that a weak board is worth time, money, and (worst of all) generates real security is bad.

Instead of arguing abstractions, use your cameras, cell-phones, and video to document day to day harassment (ie. "youre sitting within 14' of a building!"). And post it regularly, diligently, repeatedly.

by John Cohen
( karma [at] cruzio.com ) Thursday Jan 2nd, 2014 5:18 AM
The big federal government gorilla must be faced with objective evidence of civil rights violations and criminal acts by our puny local government gorillas.

Your objective evidence of police abuse and other illegalities can be used by Gorilla Advocates to strong arm, oops, I mean "persuade", the federal gorilla to stomp on the local gorillas which have been oppressing people of color, criminalizing poverty and harassing poor and homeless people for years.

Objective evidence is a fundamental tool for Gorilla Advocacy. Keep diaries of all contact with local government authorities, judges, public defenders, police officers, CSO's and Downtown "Hospitality" hosts. Write down the factual circumstances, times and dates, gather notarized witness statements or better yet audio or video record witness statements, as well as gathering all documents objectively supporting your allegations.

Whenever necessary, ask a local Gorilla Advocate to submit Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to obtain records which might support your case or disprove the official line. PDF all hate speech against you on the Internet as well as audio and video recording all incidents of hate bias or harassment by police officers, city employees, hosts, CSO's, and TBSC vigilantes. Audio and video recordings are admissible in court and for (federal) government gorilla investigations. Purchase all court records in which you are/were a defendant. Obtain all police reports in which you are/were a victim.

Please do all these things to assist you local Gorilla Advocate to help you win your asymmetrical conflicts against the local gorillas.

Check this page daily for more posts showing the successful application of Gorilla Advocacy:

http://www.facebook.com/GorillaAdvocacyInc
by Trip Weir
Friday Jan 3rd, 2014 6:01 PM
Norse you said it's harassment for a cop to tell someone they're within 14' of a building. If the Municipal Code makes that an infraction, why is it harassment? You don't agree with the law and I don't either, but as long as that is the law in Santa Cruz, how is that harassment? Please be specific.

I understand about selective enforcement and agree that it's deplorable. Also marijuana should be legalized. Is it harassment for a cop to tell a driver he can see his bag of pot in plain sight? Is it harassment for a cop to tell a dog owner to pick up his dog's poop?
by Robert Norse
Thursday Jan 9th, 2014 4:00 AM
It is one thing for anyone (a cop included) to advise someone that they are violating the Bigot-Friendly ordinances of Santa Cruz. It is another to use these laws to intimidate and move along folks--something happening recently with vendors on Pacific Avenue.

Recently, Kate the yarnscarf seller has been driven out of town. David and Crystal, street jewelry craftspeople, have had to take up panhandling--threatened with "selling more than 5 times in 6 months without a license".

Threatening people with tickets for hundreds of dollars in order to intimidate them into abandoning the basic right to use the public sidewalks--what is this if not harassment? Doing so under color of law with a gun on your hip makes it even worse. And doing so selectively against homeless-looking people or those you want to "move along" is even worse.

To claim some kind of phony neutrality here is unpersuasive. When the laws themselves violate human rights (such as the Sleeping Ban, the Sitting Ban, the Sparechanging Ban), those who enforce them become responsible for the human rights violations.

Police choose which laws they enforce and when. For instance when protesters demanded that cops ticket Bernard Klitzner for sitting more than an hour on a bench, she refused (not wishing to give publicity to business and police use of this abuse ordinance but to continue using it quietly in the shadows without publicity). See ""Bashful Bernard Braves Bench Ban" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/04/28/18591632.php?show_comments=1#18591931

I hope this helps clarify why police use of abusive laws (which they pushed for in the first place) is itself a heightened form of abuse.
by John Cohen
( karma [at] cruzio.com ) Saturday Jan 11th, 2014 7:16 PM
I know because I just filed a Color of Law complaint with the FBI last Friday morning. Now I'm asking 35+ U.S. Senators to force the FBI to carry out its duties to protect the public, under its legal and regulatory mission. The FBI people hate me because I'm forcing them to perform their duties. Eventually they'll cave to political and media pressure. I called U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy who's the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — he's listening to me!

It's decreed that the People have the Power!!!

http://youtu.be/GicBGw7LQ2A