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SEAL BEACH : Residents Planning to Monitor Police

The City Council has delayed forming a committee to review complaints against the Police Department, but this week residents pledged to take matters into their own hands.

Longtime Seal Beach activist Barbara Antoci announced at this week’s council meeting that she and other residents have formed a group that will examine complaints, investigate them and report to the City Council regularly.

The committee would be unofficial, unless the City Council votes to support it. The issue will be debated by the council within the next month.

Councilwoman Marilyn Bruce Hastings suggested the formation of a citizen’s committee last month, noting that it has been a year since the Orange County Grand Jury issued a report critical of the Police Department. The grand jury found a high number of citizen complaints against the Police Department, as well as nepotism and a high number of disability retirements.

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“When you have people with complaints about the Police Department, it’s difficult for them to go to the police, to the very people they’re complaining about,” Hastings said. “It’s kind of like sending the hen to the fox’s lair to have her complain about the fox raiding the henhouse.”

Hastings said she merely wanted a panel where people could air complaints, not a formal police commission.

But council members William J, Doane and Edna Wilson said they have reservations about such a committee and are not sure it is necessary because residents can already complain to the city manager or council.

“I very much agree with you that they should not have to go the Police Department if they have a complaint about the police,” Doane said. “But can’t they go to the city manager?”

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Councilman Frank Laszlo said that he might support a committee with a broader scope, looking at complaints in other areas, including traffic safety and recreation services.

Councilwoman Gwen Forsythe was on vacation and is likely to be the swing vote when the matter comes back before the council.

City Manager Jerry L. Bankston said city staff will examine the proposal and report back to the City Council on political, legal and personnel issues.

In the meantime, residents are forging ahead.

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“We are forming a citizens watchdog committee,” Antoci said. “We would like to do it with your help, but if you choose not to, we will do it anyway.”

Antoci said the organizers have decided to call the group Citizens Complaint Advisory Panel, using the slogan, “Put a CCAP on it.”

Bankston said there are advantages to having a committee that is not sponsored by the city. For example, he said, the committee would not have to adhere to the public meeting requirements required by the Brown Act. And to the city’s benefit, Bankston said, Seal Beach would not be liable for the actions of committee members.

“If a citizens committee feels it can function independently of the city, then I would encourage them to do so,” Bankston said. He said he hopes that everyone who has “a valid, legitimate concern” would bring it forward.

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