SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A city council committee is considering making changes to the way complaints made by citizens against police officers are handled.
Dozens of people packed the Public Safety Committee Chambers Wednesday afternoon, with police sitting on one side and those pushing for reform on the other. Citizen Review Board Executive Director Sharmane Mosley presented changes made to improve the complaint reporting process during her first six months in office.
"The first page explains the whole process. This is the original form, there's no explanation or anything on the form," said Director Sharmane.
Changing the reporting form was one of several steps to make it easier for people to come forward and make formal complaints against police. Some attendees at the meeting held signs pushing for more transparency or a complete change to distance the board from police officers.
"We believe any institution that investigates itself has an obvious conflict of interest. The tools we have to hold the police department accountable are not working. The millions the city has agreed to pay in settlements are coming out of taxpayer pockets," said Kate Yavenditti of Women Occupy San Diego.
Recent settlements include those paid to victims of officer Anthony Arevalos, accused of asking several women for sexual favors in exchange for looking the other way to alleged crimes. However, not every case reaches that level. Complaints of excessive force, criminal conduct or discrimination are all investigated by internal affairs, then the board reviews the case files.
"We do not rubber stamp, as we've heard," said William Beck of the Citizen Review Board. "We investigate, we read the case files, and we listen to the tapes of the complaints and the officers."
While Director Mosley told the board that the process is working with the new adjustments, others want the board to have its own investigators and subpoena power.
"When you build trust and you build credibility, that can only be good for everyone," says Kate Yavenditti.
A full overhaul would take a ballot proposition, but the city is looking at other ways to work within the current charter.
Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman briefly addressed the committee. She says that the department is following the City Charter and would follow any changes that were made.