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City to Form Prop. G Police Review Board

Times Staff Writer

San Diego city officials have decided to implement a new police review board approved by voters under Proposition G in November and not to wait for the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the city attorney’s ruling that a rival, tougher review board should also be impaneled.

George Penn, an assistant to the city manager, said Friday that he expects the Proposition G panel to be in operation by mid-May, noting that the city already has received the names of 50 people nominated to serve on the review board.

Penn also said that, if the courts rule in favor of the rival review board under Proposition F, which was also approved by voters, then both panels would be created.

‘Sensitive to This Problem’

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“We’re sensitive to this problem,” Penn told the luncheon gathering at the Catfish Club, an organization made up primarily of minority business and community leaders in San Diego.

“If a court of law says we must have two police review boards, we’ll implement both.”

Final ballot totals last November showed that both Propositions F and G received a majority of “yes” votes. Proposition F’s tally was 179,102 to 155,341, and Proposition G drew 179,917 to 160,166.

Because Proposition G had 815 more “yes” votes, the city attorney ruled that that board should be created. It calls for a board appointed by the city manager, but in most other respects it would be similar to the current police review board.

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The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit last month, contending that the Proposition F board should also be impaneled. That board calls for a review process in which police officers would be subpoenaed to testify in closed hearings about allegations of misconduct.

A March 21 court hearing is scheduled in the lawsuit.

In Favor of Review Mechanism

Penn said the fact that both propositions received a majority of approval votes shows that citizens are indeed concerned about allegations of police misconduct and are in favor of some kind of police review mechanism to ensure that errant officers are properly disciplined.

He said that, whether one review board or two panels are created, the board members must remember that they represent the public and do not simply mimic the Police Department. He said many review boards across the country have failed because they found themselves acting as apologists for their local police officials.

“You’re there as a board member to serve a function, to be an advocate for the community,” Penn said.

The members of the existing police review board, formed in 1987, were appointed by both the city manager and the police chief, a process that irritated many community leaders and led to the ballot proposals for an alternative review method.

Penn said none of the current review board members would be included in either of the two new boards because voters made it clear they do not want the police chief involved in the appointments. “You can see the obvious perception of impropriety if someone is chosen by the police chief,” he said.

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