Commission mulls possibility of permanent police oversight in Burbank

The Burbank Police Commission is hoping to see the city establish an oversight board to monitor the police on a permanent basis.

During the commission’s meeting Wednesday, Commissioner Elise Stearns-Niesen said a permanent body would help provide consistent oversight of the Burbank Police Department. As of right now, the city contracts with the Office of Independent Review to provide civilian oversight.

However, the contract must be reviewed and renewed every three years by the City Council.

“I think it’s the wave of the future,” she said. “What we’re seeing in law enforcement is more and more cities are adopting and hiring independent review bodies for oversight.”

While no action was taken during the meeting, the commissioners were in general agreement to establish a permanent oversight board. However, there were several questions about how the oversight would work, who would participate and how it would be funded.

Another question would be whether or not the Police Commission itself would turn into an oversight board. Although the commission acts as a liaison between the community and department, it lacks any real oversight powers.

However, Commission Chair David Diamond said converting it into an oversight body would increase liability, possibly opening up the commission to lawsuits. Regardless of what form the oversight body takes, Diamond said the commission should still push the city to establish one — which would require a change to the city’s charter.

“For too long, we’ve just been a board up here that waves and smiles once a month,” he said. “There’s got to be something a little bit more.”

Twitter: @Andy_Truc

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