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By Jorge Casuso
October 9, 2020 -- The City announced Friday that it has hired a consulting firm specializing in law enforcement oversight to investigate the Police Department's response to the May 31 riots.
Under the contract, OIR Group will be paid no more than $75,000 to complete the independent after-action report and evaluation of SMPD's response within six months, City officials said.
The firm will provide "a written narrative of facts regarding those events" and "an independent evaluation of, and recommendations regarding, the City’s response."
The evaluation will focus on the response by the SMPD, Police Chief Cynthia Renaud, Interim City Manager Lane Dilg and the City Council, officials said.
The probe will be conducted "on an expedited timeline with the goal of having a final written report and evaluation within 180 days," although that could be extended if OIR determines more time is needed.
The hiring of the Playa del Rey based firm comes four months after the City Council first directed staff to probe SMPD's response, which led to allegations that police allowed widespread looting and used excessive force against protesters.
"OIR Group brings approximately two decades of experience and expertise in oversight of law enforcement practices and activities, including preparation of after-action reports," City officials said.
They note that OIR was in charge of investigating the "controversial, large-scale use of force" by LAPD officers during the 2001 May Day incident in MacArthur Park.
In 2010, Santa Monica hired the firm to investigate a police probe of School Board member Oscar de la Torre ("SMPD Right to Investigate de la Torre but Used Questionable Methods, Report Concludes," February 8, 2011).
The agency concluded that SMPD had acted appropriately when it launched a four-month-long investigation into de la Torre's actions during a student fight but noted the techniques used by police could raise concerns.
The firm's most recent reports center on officer involved shootings and use of force by the Burbank Police Department and the Portland Police Bureau.
Councilmember Sue Himmelrich first called for the current probe after police came under fire from demonstrators, business owners and residents ("Santa Monica Councilmember Calls for Independent Probe of Police Actions During Looting Spree," June 8, 2020).
Himmelrich did not specify in her request who would conduct the investigation but pointed to the OIR Group and said she would like to see a review similar to the one conducted in its investigation of SMPD's handling of the de la Torre probe.
The firm's website highlights the "widespread protests and spiraling jury verdicts (that) reflect the public’s increasing concern about law enforcement performance -- and its high expectations for responsive policing."
Santa Monica business owners have complained police did little to stop the looting spree that swept virtually unchecked through Santa Monica's downtown area on May 31 ("More Than 150 Santa Monica Businesses Report "Significant Damage" from Sunday's Violence," June 2, 2020).
Meanwhile, demonstrators who say police used excessive force against peaceful protesters have staged numerous rallies outside the Public Safety facility.
An investigation by the Lookout found that the Santa Monica Police Department was clearly unprepared, initially understaffed and appeared to have no operations plan to stop the violence (PART I -- Santa Monica Police Could Have Prevented Looting Spree, Former Top Officials Say," June 10, 2020).
Regular updates on the progress of the after action report will be shared at santamonica.gov/May31afteraction.
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