CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad City Council took steps toward creating a citizen’s review board for the Carlsbad Police Department during the council’s March 23 meeting.
The city will hire a consultant to help develop a structure that enables community members to be appointed by the city council district representatives to meet and provide feedback to the Carlsbad Police Department. The council approved the motion, 4-1, with Mayor Hall voting no, citing the cost and lack of engagement from the public during four community meetings and a public survey in late January and early February.
Councilman Keith Blackburn, who spent nearly 30 years as a police officer (most with the Carlsbad Police), said the review-level board is the right thing to do. Blackburn pushed for a compromise between staff recommendations, which included an oversight body and continuing current practices and oversight.
“I think there is a middle ground,” Blackburn said. “The intent is not for oversight, but for the public to be heard and then goes it to the police chief and they decide what will be done.”
The city published a nearly 200-page report detailing the community meetings and results of those meetings and the survey.
According to the survey, 72% of residents trust the police department, while 59% believe in some form of civilian oversight. Additionally, those in favor of an oversight body said transparency, accountability and trust are the driving factors.
Also, proponents said it is important to include more diverse voices in discussions, policy and understanding the relationship between police and the community, according to the report.
Keyrollos Ibrahim, co-founder and president of the Carlsbad Equality Coalition, said the data shows trust and need for a review board are not exclusive and show oversight is needed.
Ibrahim said cities such as Oceanside and Escondido are looking into creating their own review boards, while San Diego and San Diego County already have long-standing boards, per the staff report.
“A review-level board doesn’t dictate to a police department what changes to make,” Ibrahim said. “Most often, that final decision still lies with the police department. We’re going to ask certain changes are made to that proposal to make sure it is indeed a review-level board and not four people who are going to have coffee with a member of the POA (Police Officers Association) quarterly.”
City staff and the consultant, though, will return to the council with potential options of how to best begin the formation of the board. Currently, the function would be for the board to receive a complaint, review and file it to an authority figure outside the department and then filed with the department to make a decision.
Ibrahim helped spearhead the Black Lives Matter march in Jun, while the CEC engaged with the council and CPD about a review board over the past nine months. Ibrahim, and others, said it is also important to include bias training for police officers to mitigate use-of-force tactics and approaches.
Also, Ibrahim said those against the board must look at the data, especially use-of-force cases against people of color.
After reviewing police and census data, Ibrahim said use-of-force cases against Black and Latino residents are 1,000% and 200%, respectively, more than white residents.
Councilwoman Cori Schumacher said she approached the police department after being elected to discuss bias and policing of the LGBTQ+ community. Schumacher, who is gay, said the department “embraced” the training, which has created a better environment.
Councilwomen Priya Bhat-Patel and Teresa Acosta, the two members who are of color, said the status quo is a non-starter and building more trust and transparency with communities of color is critical.
“I like the idea of some form of citizens’ committee, even if it’s more review options,” Acosta said. “(It is to) create trust between the community and law enforcement.”