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Carlsbad approves Community-Police Engagement Commission

CARLSBAD — The City Council approved the city’s first Community-Police Engagement Commission during its Dec. 6 meeting, the result of a two-year process aimed at strengthening the relationship between the Carlsbad Police Department and residents.

The five-member commission will not oversee nor direct the policies of the police department. Instead, the group will help build trust and engagement with the community, according to Carlsbad assistant city attorney Allegra Frost.

“The primary duty is community engagement, not oversight,” Frost said.

However, the commission’s specific duties, besides improving transparency and engagement between police and residents, still need to be clarified.

The council approved the item, 4-0, with Mayor Matt Hall absent.

Council members may appoint qualified residents to serve on the board if they meet specific requirements. According to Frost, candidates must be open-minded and lack actual or perceived biases. In addition, members must demonstrate a record of community involvement and attend the Police Citizens Academy twice a year.

Once on the commission, members will undergo training on law enforcement policies, including the use of force and implicit bias. Members will also participate in two ride-a-alongs with police, including at least one trip with the Homeless Outreach Team.

“We will continue to build upon relationships,” said Carlsbad Police Chief Mickey Williams. “Fortunately, we have a community that supports us.”

The journey toward the commission’s origins began in 2020 during the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

Carlsbad Police Chief Mickey Williams, right, shakes hands with Yusef Miller of the North County Civil Liberties Coalition earlier this year. Photo by Steve Puterski

Over the past two years, the Carlsbad Equality Coalition, North County Civil Liberties Coalition and local NAACP discussed the creation of a civilian commission in partnership with the Carlsbad Police Department.

Aly Vredenburgh, president of the Carlsbad Equality Coalition, said the outcome and support from the council is a great sign moving forward. The local coalition, led by former president Keyrollos Ibrahim, helped negotiate the commission, and the effort continued under Vredenburgh.

Vredenburgh said the commission’s functions would become more evident once the board is seated. Still, it’s a significant first step for the city and its residents.

Mayor-elect Keith Blackburn admitted initially resisting the idea but grew more comfortable as he witnessed the maturity and humility of those working to establish the commission.

“This has my full support,” Blackburn said. “It is extremely important that every police department has accountability. There is a lot of confusion about this commission, but it’s not about attacking police. We have a fantastic chief who is transparent and open. This will only help make our community safer.”

Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel, who helped work with each local group and coalition, said the commission is a way to maintain transparency and improve community policing.