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Santa Ana asks public for ideas about police oversight

People who live and work in Santa Ana, and anybody interested in police issues, can offer their thoughts on whether the city’s police department should be subject to some type of independent oversight.

City officials have launched a survey to see if people in the community believe police oversight is needed and, if they do, what that oversight should look like.

The survey, posted last week on the city’s Facebook page, is open to locals and outsiders who “care about police oversight.”

The questions – in English, Spanish and Vietnamese – include whether police oversight “will positively affect public safety in Santa Ana” and what a police commission’s priorities should be.  Should a commission, for example, be “independent of police, elected officials, and special interests“? Or should it prioritize “increased protection of peace officer rights.”

The survey notes that there are different models for a police oversight commission, and asks respondents to choose their preference from among three:

One model would be investigation-focused, looking at complaints against police officers, which may replace or duplicate the work now done by police internal affairs. A second would be review-focused, featuring a civilian group that would evaluate the quality of police internal affairs investigations. And the third would promote broad organizational change, via an auditor or monitor who would examine “broad patterns in complaint investigations.”

“Which of the above three models of police oversight do you think would be most effective in Santa Ana?” the survey asks.

City officials are asking for feedback on police oversight after marches earlier this year in Santa Ana and across the country to express frustration with racial injustice and police brutality.

On June 16, the City Council directed staff to prepare a report on different models of police oversight groups. On Sept. 15, staff presented various options and the council asked for more information, including an analysis of costs and other differences between a commission with subpoena powers and one without.

The brief survey does not mention subpoena powers, an omission that disappoints some locals who would like to see stronger independent oversight of police.

“The city is doing its due diligence, and trying to stay neutral, but I do wish they had more explicitly listed an explanation of subpoena and investigatory powers,” said local activist Carlos Perea.

Still, Perea added, it’s a first step toward considering a commission.

In recent years, long before the George Floyd protests, the Santa Ana City Council rejected the idea of such a commission. But a new mayor and three new council members are set to take office next month, according to the latest tally in an unofficial count by the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

All four incumbing elected leaders –  Mayor Vicente Sarmiento and council members Thai Viet Phan, Jessie Lopez, and Johnathan Ryan Hernandez – have expressed support for creating an independent police oversight commission with investigative and subpoena powers.

The new elected leaders are scheduled to be sworn in on Dec. 8. The survey results may be presented to the council as early as Dec. 15.

Source: Orange County Register

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