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The city of Carlsbad is establishing a civilian-police engagement commission. Courtesy photo
The city of Carlsbad is establishing a civilian-police engagement commission. Courtesy photo
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Carlsbad approves resident commission for police, community engagement

CARLSBAD — The city is establishing a civilian-led commission to formalize community engagement with Carlsbad Police Department after the council approved the item during its June 7 meeting.

The Carlsbad Community-Police Engagement Commission will likely consist of five residents — a civilian representative from each district — who meet publicly on a regular basis to “receive non-confidential reports from police leaders, hear public concerns and offer advice and feedback to the Police Department.”

The commission, which city officials say won’t launch until after the November election, will not serve as an oversight committee and has no authority to conduct investigations into claims involving law enforcement.

More details about the commission, including qualifications for potential commissioners, will be released later this year.

“Outreach to the community is a high priority for us,” said Carlsbad Police Chief Mickey Williams. “That’s how we get better at policing.”

Councilman Keith Blackburn, a retired police officer currently serving as a law enforcement volunteer, was against creating any type of police oversight committee. Blackburn also said the five residents should be neutral with no ties to police or advocacy groups.

Mayor Matt Hall, the lone no vote against the police commission, noted the city already has 15 commissions and believed the group would eventually become political.

Keyrollos Ibrahaim, founder of the Carlsbad Equality Coalition who led the charge for a civilian police commission, said the commission is a big win for the city. The commission was approved exactly two years to the day after the Carlsbad Equality Coalition requested a more formal system for residents to engage with police after several Black Lives Matters rallies in the city following the death of George Floyd.

While Ibrahaim acknowledged the commission has “no teeth,” he said it’s a step in the right direction and shows how the coalition has built trust and an open dialogue with the police department.

“It was a reality that passed with a bipartisan vote,” said Ibrahaim, who stepped down from the coalition several weeks ago. “This was a big win for us, a big win for the community. These types of conversations don’t have to be antagonistic, they can be collaborative and that those conversations produce results.”

The Carlsbad Equality Coalition did request a permanent seat on the commission during the meeting, a request that gave the council pause before sidestepping the matter and advancing the commission as presented by consultant Michael Gennaco, of the OIR Group.

“The opportunity for us to do something well is in front of us,” said Yusef Miller of the North County Equity and Justice Coalition. “Let’s make sure we continue this track record of working together, of success, of community involved decision making.”

Councilman Peder Norby also expressed concerns with the commission, namely associated costs. But residents felt gripes over the relatively low cost of implementing the commission weren’t justified, noting the council recently awarded the police department $4.2 million for new military-grade equipment and license plate readers.

However, the $150,000 cost has been drastically reduced, according to Ibrahaim, by cutting staff time and other financial costs.

Carlsbad Equality Coalition has worked with the Carlsbad Police Department over the past two years to address chokeholds and excessive force policies. Ibrahaim said both sides came into talks wary of each other, but with open and honest dialogue, both parties have knocked down barriers to produce a fruitful relationship, especially with Chief Williams.

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