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Oceanside to form committee to review police misconduct investigations

OCEANSIDE — The city will form a new standing committee of residents to provide third-party oversight of police and fire misconduct investigations.

The Oceanside City Council unanimously approved the staff’s recommendation to form the committee and its bylaws at its Aug. 10 meeting. Discussions about forming the committee began in the spring with the Police and Fire Commission, most of which voted in favor of establishing the oversight committee in April.

The committee will review and make recommendations regarding misconduct complaints against members of the police and fire departments. Once an investigation is completed by the police or fire department, the committee would be provided access to the entire investigation file, including audio and video recordings, according to Police Chief Fred Armijo. All personal identifying information will be redacted.

“After completing the review, the Standing Oversight Committee will render a disposition of whether to agree or disagree,” Armijo said.

The police chief also noted the committee’s decision would be made before disciplinary action is taken.

During a regular, open session on a bi-monthly basis, the oversight committee will present a case summary for each matter reviewed in the past two months.

After the oversight committee functions for a year, additional analysis is required to determine whether any additional funding to run the program is needed, according to the staff proposal. Additional funds are required at this time, but that could change.

While several members of the public agreed with the establishment of a standing oversight committee to review police misconduct, some argued that the committee needs more teeth.

“Across the country, we see examples of committees like this that are not effective unless given real power to conduct independent investigations and hold officers accountable,” said Judah Coker, Oceanside resident and community organizer with the San Diego Organizing Project, a regional multifaith network devoted to matters of justice and ending inequality.

Coker suggested the city model its oversight committee after the county’s Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board.

Fellow Oceanside resident Katie Taylor was vehemently opposed to creating a standing oversight committee for police, which she believes will hinder police from taking action due to fear of repercussion from a potential complaint.

“Wait until they start backing off, waiting until they won’t take any more risk,” Taylor said.

Residents in favor of the oversight committee and Mayor Esther Sanchez urged that the committee have a “widely diverse” group of individuals representing various walks of life throughout Oceanside.

Sanchez has already asked two people to join the committee: Rob Howard, a current member of the Measure X Oversight Committee and former president of the North San Diego County NAACP, and Jimmy Figueroa, who was recently appointed as the new executive director of Project HOPE-North County, an emergency shelter for families with children and single women experiencing homelessness.