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Rift Widens on Police Reform Commission

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By Jorge Casuso

October 18, 2021 -- A member of Santa Monica's Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission (PSROC) on Monday denounced Chair George Brown's decision to send a draft report to the City Council without the group's approval.

In a letter, Commissioner Joe Palazzolo said the Council should "disregard" the report Brown submitted Friday morning because it reflects his own point of view and failed to win majority approval.

"The Commission was not intended to represent one person’s view which is the reason that Chair Brown’s draft was not approved (Thursday night)," Palazzolo wrote in his one-page letter.

"It seems evident that the Commissioners that rejected the draft report were not convinced that the Chair was adequately responding to their concerns," said Palazzolo, a 38-year resident of Santa Monica.

He added, "I am at a loss as to why he would feel the need to submit it."

In his cover letter to the Council Friday morning, Brown said the accompanying draft of the report "reflects the Chair's intended plan for the direction of the Commission" and added that "I believe it is useful to share" ("Police Reform Commission Fails to Approve Report," October 15).

The Commission's first major report responds to the OIR Group's findings concerning the Police Department's response to the the May 31, 2020 protests, which included unchecked rioting and looting.

The report was approved on a 5-4 vote by the 11-member commission Thursday night, falling one vote short of the threshold needed.

Palazzolo said Brown submitted his report as the four dissenting commissioners, at the suggestion of Commissioner George Centeno, a retired SMPD veteran, began drafting a revised report that was submitted through City staff Monday morning.

"I find it disturbing that Chairman Brown would disregard the vote of the Commission and take it upon himself to submit a report to the Council that was not approved by the Commission," Palazzolo wrote.

"Chair Brown’s draft report failed because some members of the commission were not comfortable with the overall tone of it," he wrote.

"It seems unreasonable to expect that a revised draft would be completed in the few hours that elapsed between the meeting adjournment and Chair Brown’s submission of his email to the council."

In his letter, Palazzolo questioned Brown's contention that the Commission failed to reach the necessary votes because two members were absent and the three dissenting Commissioners "did not offer an alternative report."

"This certainly was not the case," Palazzolo wrote. "Personally, in the first Commission meeting in which the draft was reviewed I made many comments relative to the use of terms that I considered both inflammatory and not founded by evidence.

"During the second commission meeting three of the no votes provided testimony, mine alone was comprised (of) two and a half pages of notes."

Since being voted Chair this summer, Brown -- who co-author of the "New Era of Public Safety" report for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights" -- has taken on an increasingly strong leadership role on the Commission.

Brown, a retired partner with the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, recently denounced an August 24 agreement between the City and police union, calling it a "gut punch" that "undermines" the group's work ("Public Safety Commission Denounces City, Union Agreement," September 3, 2021).

The police union shot back that Brown's comments were "disheartening, false and illustrate a clear misunderstanding of public sector employee collective bargaining rights."

Editor's note: This article was updated at 6:20 p.m. Monday to reflect that there were four dissenting Commissioners who all worked on the revised draft submitted through City staff Monday morning.

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