After a monthlong review by the city attorney, city manager and chief of police, the Citizens Review Board on Police Practices announced Tuesday night that it will investigate every case in which a San Diego police officer shoots a citizen, regardless of how serious the injury is.
The decision, announced at the board's meeting at police headquarters, comes after the 20-member body voted unanimously at its June 26 meeting to ask that the city manager make the change.
Board Chairman Murray Galinson said after Tuesday's announcement that the decision came only after Police Chief Bob Burgreen agreed to it. Galinson also said it will not be binding on the next chief.
"We couldn't make the chief of police do it, but he can do it if he wants to," Galinson said.
But he added that when the time comes to choose a new chief, the city manager will give the question weight when interviewing prospective replacements.
At the June meeting, Deputy City Atty. John Kaheny had said there was no legal device that would allow the board to investigate any shooting that did not result in a citizen complaint.
After the announcement Tuesday, Burgreen said he never opposed the change but that he did not come out in favor of it at first because he wasn't sure it was legal.
The board will now look into every shooting after both the Police Department's internal affairs division and the district attorney's office have reviewed them.
The move means that shootings of transients and undocumented aliens, who often do not have family members to file complaints on their behalf, will automatically be investigated.
After the board reviews a case, it will decide whether to recommend that it be reinvestigated by either internal affairs and the district attorney or by the grand jury, according to Galinson.
The board will follow its current procedure for reviewing citizen complaints of shootings.
Galinson said the change will mean the board will look at about 28 more cases per year. He said it has looked at 150 to 175 cases in the past 12 months.
Burgreen also said the process for reviews at all three levels will be speeded up.
Everett L. Bobbitt, attorney for the San Diego Police Officers Assn., said the group welcomes the change.
"It didn't surprise us at all," he said.
In other business, the board voted 12 to 2, with two abstentions, to oppose a bill before the Legislature that would allow closed hearings in police and civil service matters brought by subordinates who are appealing decisions made by their superiors.
The board voted after the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Lucy Killea (D-San Diego), made a last-minute appearance to speak on behalf of it.