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Council Members Push For Police Probe Requested in June

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By Jorge Casuso

August 21, 2020 -- The City Council on Tuesday is expected to once again push for an independent review of the police response to the May 31 Santa Monica riots more than two and a half months after voting for a probe.

Councilmember Sue Himmelrich -- who called for the initial review on June 9 -- has been joined by Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day and newly appointed Council member Kristin McCowan in the latest council request.

Added to the agenda on Friday, the item calls for staff to "promptly retain an outside expert to compile the after-action report regarding Santa Monica Police Department activities relating to events before, after, and on May 31, 2020."

The request also asks staff to give the expert ongoing access to all information "compiled to date" by SMPD, as well as "any additional such information gathered" by the Department or from other sources.

"We can't wait any longer," Himmelrich said. "I'm not a patient person.

"I don't look back, I only look forward," she said. "I don't know why this (delay) happened, I just know it did."

Himmelrich noted that the first deadline to launch the probe was August 7, then it was pushed back to August 17. When this week passed with no report, Himmelrich decided to act.

"I want this thing to get done, so we can move on," Himmelrich said. "I'm not willing to restructure the police department with what we know."

The Council initially directed staff to hire a firm for less than $95,000, the amount that allows staff to authorize a contract without Council approval.

Himmelrich now believes the amount will likely exceed that threshold and anticipates the Council will sign off on a larger contract.

The consultant will need to review bodycam footage, internal police communications, emails and information from other sources, Himmelrich said.

Since the violent unrest May 31, the Police Department has come under fire from demonstrators, business owners and residents ("Santa Monica Demonstration Turns Violent, Looters Ransack Stores," June 1, 2020).

Demonstrators who say police used excessive force against peaceful protesters have been regularly rallying outside the Public Safety facility since early June.

Meanwhile, business owners have complained police did little to stop the looting spree that swept virtually unchecked through Santa Monica's downtown ("More Than 150 Santa Monica Businesses Report "Significant Damage" from Sunday's Violence," June 2, 2020).

An online petition to remove Police Chief Cynthia Renaud garnered nearly 56,000 signatures in one week ("Petition Circulates to Recall Santa Monica Police Chief After Rampant Looting," June 1, 2020).

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).

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