The Coast News Group
File photo by Promise Yee
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City sees no need for police oversight

OCEANSIDE — The city sees no need for a citizen oversight board of police behavior, and voted down the idea of forming one on Aug. 10.

City Council was prompted to vote on the issue in response to a letter from the San Diego County Grand Jury Report.

The letter was also sent to the cities of Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Coronado, El Cajon, Escondido and La Mesa. It introduced the idea of forming a city or regional oversight board to review complaints waged against police in order to maintain trust in law enforcement.

Following the City Council vote, Mayor Jim Wood said there have been no complaints from the NAACP on Oceanside police behavior, and there is no need to form an oversight board.

The Oceanside Police Department has a written complaint process in place, in which all complaints are reviewed by a full-time sergeant specifically dedicated to the task.

Residents who file complaints are told the general outcome of the investigation.

The city also has a Police and Fire Commission, which meets quarterly, where residents can express complaints.

Oceanside feels its complaints and investigation procedures are acceptable, unbiased and hold officers accountable for violations of policy.

City Manager Michelle Skaggs-Lawrence said there is a positive relationship between city police and residents.

“We are extremely proud of the Oceanside Police Department (OPD) and specifically its Community Policing efforts,” Skaggs-Lawrence said. “OPD has worked very hard to create and maintain strong working relationships with our community.”

Police Chief Frank McCoy also said Oceanside police have a good relationship with residents. He, too, credits positive relationships to the long-standing Community Policing Team, which works with residents to solve neighborhood problems.

“We’ve opened a great amount of doors,” McCoy said.

McCoy said the department is always looking for ways to improve community outreach and increase transparency. Efforts include Coffee with Cops meet-ups, which invite residents to informally talk with police at a neutral location like a local diner.

In San Diego County there are currently three active law enforcement review boards.

San Diego County Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board was formed in 1990. It reviews about 150 complaints a year against the sheriff’s department, and sustains about 10 percent of complaints.

The City of San Diego Citizens Review Board was established in the 1980s, after a controversial police shooting. Initially is was planned as temporary commission. Due to its success it was extended, and then formally voted on to continue in 1988.

National City Community and Police Relations Commission was formed 2003. The long-standing volunteer commission gives residents a forum to voice concerns about police conduct, practices and policies.

McCoy said he is unaware of any city in the county looking to form a regional citizen oversight board for police. All cities are asked to respond to the letter by Aug. 23.