SAN DIEGO — San Diego’s Commission on Police Practices is slowly moving towards running at full force. The body was after voters passed Measure B last year, which expanded independent oversight of the city’s police department.
On Wednesday, the city council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee approved several administrative steps to help the commission operate in the interim.
However, it cannot yet exercise its subpoena power or independent investigations into officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths or other discipline issues.
“We have a legal duty to investigate those once we have the procedures and the staff in place to do that and so, we will continue to review internal affairs investigations, but we will not take any final action until such time as we can have our own independent investigation,” said Doug Case, first vice-chair of the commission.
The commission still needs to hire investigators and other staff but there is no formal timeline yet.
Until then, cases that it would normally be required to investigate may be placed on hold until the commission is able to do so.
Advocates who helped make Measure B a reality worry the process may drag on too long.
“The response of the commission is, well, ‘we'll do an investigation after the ordinance is passed in a year or a year and a half or two years.’ An investigation a year and a half after it takes place? You know memories fade. Evidence is lost. I don't think that's really an appropriate response,” said Andrea St. Julian, co-chair of San Diegans for Justice who helped author the measure.
Support for Measure B increased following protests last year in San Diego and elsewhere across the nation. It eventually received the support of then-Mayor Kevin Faulconer and enough City Council members, which helped ensure it would appear on the November ballot.
A similar reform proposal failed to make the ballot in 2018.
“It shouldn't be a waiting game and it can't be a waiting game. This is something that is too important and too important to the community,” said St. Julian. “I think that as the community learned with Measure B when the community voices its concerns. The city will be and can be responsive.”