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Proposed Resolution Gives Police Reform Commissioners Ultimatum

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By Jorge Casuso

December 9, 2022 -- Members of the City's Police Reform Commission have until February 1 to complete the training required to serve or face ejection, under a resolution the City Council will take up Tuesday.

The push to act comes after the police union in September threatened to sue the City to remove three members who have failed "to attend portions of required trainings," according to City staff.

"The proposed Resolution would rectify this situation by ensuring that all commissioners will complete the training requirements with a minimum amount of further delay," staff wrote in their report.

Under the resolution, if any commissioner fails to complete the required training by February 1, "the City Council intends to suspend or remove that member from the Commission."

The training includes taking part in the SMPD Community Academy and in a training session of less than two hours that includes a briefing on the Police Officers Bill of Rights, according too the Municipal Code.

Additional training could include programs offered by the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, the Association of Local Government Auditors, "entities with experience providing racial justice training, or other similar bodies."

In a statement issued in October, the Santa Monica Police Officers Association (SMPOA) stressed the importance if the training ("OPINION -- Police Reform Commission Members Should Do Their Jobs," October 6, 2022).

"This training is meant to give commissioners an understanding of department practices and procedures as well as access to the public safety professionals to whom they are providing oversight."

This allows the commissioners to "gain a better perspective and understanding as they discharge their important function as commissioners," the statement said.

The union noted that although the deadline to complete the training has been extended numerous times, "some commissioners have simply refused to do it.

"These commissioners have publicly decried the training even after accepting it as a condition of their service," the POA wrote.

"Those who don’t wish to fulfill their obligations should step aside so that the (commission) can be comprised entirely of citizens committed to public service."

In his response to the POA's statement, Jaime S. Cruz, one of the commission members who has not completed the training, accused the police union of retaliation ("OPINION -- The Time for Police Policing Themselves Is Over," October 13, 2022).

"The SMPOA is now focusing their attention on specific Commissioners who have been quite vocal and critical during (commission) meetings, and they are now going to great lengths to have them permanently removed," Cruz wrote.

"Given that the PSROC represents police officers within the SMPD, isn’t there an inherent conflict of interest if they are meddling in the same commission that was created for Police oversight?

"If the police are not engaged in unlawful or unethical behavior, then they should not worry about oversight. Criminals worry about oversight. The time for police policing themselves is over," Cruz said.

In his response, Cruz noted that he had undergone several invasive surgical procedures and had informed City staff in advance "when I needed to be 'excused' for any mandated meetings or trainings."

Under the proposed resolution, the Council would direct the City Manager "to facilitate and provide any commissioner with a reasonable opportunity to complete the required trainings before this deadline."

If any commissioner "requires a training modification due to any health-related reason," SMPD and the commissioner "shall cooperate with the City Manager regarding any such modification that does not unduly interfere with the training."

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