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Santa Monica Establishes Civilian Police Oversight Commission

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica

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By Lookout Staff

January 14, 2021 -- Spurred by nationwide protests over the deaths of Black citizens at the hands of police, the City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the creation of Santa Monica’s first civilian police oversight commission.

The 11-member commission appointed by the Council will work with the Police Department and experts to "recommend reforms to SMPD policies, practices, and handling of complaints regarding SMPD conduct," City officials said.

“Public safety reform for Santa Monica has been a thorough and inclusive process at every step,” Mayor Sue Himmelrich said in a statement.

“The structure for the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission reflects community recommendations and creates a sustainable model for meaningful civilian oversight and ongoing community engagement.”

An Inspector General retained by the City Manager's office will report to and receive direction from the Commission.

The individual -- funded through a reallocation from the SMPD budget -- will "view internal documents and provide data at the appropriate level to the Commission."

The Commission also will receive support from a staff liaison from outside of the Police Department, as well as from a Deputy City Attorney, officials said.

The Commission will have the power and duty to:

  • Review and make recommendations regarding SMPD policies and practices;

  • Receive information relating to any violations of procedures or policies in connection with disciplinary investigations, proceedings, and actions, and make recommendations regarding any such violations;

  • Collaborate with the SMPD to sponsor and promote ongoing interaction and trust building between the SMPD and community members, including providing channels and opportunities for ongoing dialogue between the SMPD and community members in both organized and informal settings;

  • Promote transparency and availability to the public of SMPD data and records;

  • Collaborate with the SMPD and the community to promote restorative justice;

  • Evaluate and make recommendations regarding ideas for implementing best practices in community-oriented policing and reimagining public safety and wellbeing; and

  • Review and make recommendations regarding the proposed budget for the SMPD.

Commissioners must live in Santa Monica and have "a significant commitment to the public safety and wellbeing of the City and its community members," officials said.

They also must "have knowledge of or experience with law enforcement, public safety policies and issues, or social services policies and issues."

Members of the Commission must receive training "relevant to providing oversight of law enforcement and to the understanding of racial justice."

The Commission has 150 days to present a set of initial recommendations to the Police Chief, City Manager and City Council.

The recommendations will address "proposed reforms for handling complaints regarding SMPD conduct, including proposed reforms for the intake, review, and investigation of complaints and the oversight of disciplinary decisions and policies," officials said.

The Commission also must provide written reports of its activities to the City Council at least every six months and at Council’s direction.

The Council on Tuesday also updated SMPD's use of force policy to revise the term "proportional" in dealing with the level of force used to address a suspected offense. (for the revised policy visit

Following the adoption of the ordinance establishing the commission on January 26, City staff will solicit applications.

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