Anaheim Begins Review of Its Citizen Police Oversight Board

On the heels of public protests last week over a physical struggle between a Los Angeles police officer and a group of Anaheim teens, Anaheim City Council members Tuesday split over the future role of the citizen board that provides oversight of the police and fire departments.

During a brief study session before their regular meeting, Councilman Jose Moreno called for expansion of the Public Safety Board into an “independent, investigative police commission” with the ability to issue subpoenas and investigate incidents.

His proposal drew strong objections from Councilwomen Kris Murray and Lucille Kring.

“Other than a couple of comments, I’ve had no public feedback from our residents expressing concerns…I think that also speaks volumes,” said Murray, who added she had not heard any members of the board express dissatisfaction with its current form.

“I don’t think anything we’ve heard today warrants that measure [of authority],” Murray added in response to Moreno’s proposal.

But several speakers and a city consultant’s report criticized the board as lacking the authority and resources to provide the independent, citizen oversight that many activists have called for.

The city’s Public Safety Board was launched in 2014 in response to an explosion of public outrage and protests in 2012 after a spate of police-involved shootings that left two Latino men dead.

Unlike city commissions, which report to the City Council, Anaheim’s Public Safety Board has no policy-making authority and makes recommendations to the city manager. The board can’t conduct or order investigations into incidents and does not have subpoena power.

A consultant’s report presented to the council Tuesday found disagreement among the board’s members over its mission and between the board and City Manager Paul Emery.

After a two-year pilot run, council members will need to decide whether to have the board continue in its current capacity or change course. But that decision will be made at a future meeting and no date was set Tuesday by City Council members.

While council members were mixed over where to take the Public Safety Board, several public speakers called on them to expand the board and its powers.

“Once you have a purpose for the Public Safety Board, enshrine it in the city charter – don’t look at it as a tentative, experimental thing,” said David Haas, an attorney and member of the Anaheim-based Latino advocacy group Los Amigos. Haas served on the San Diego County Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board in the 1990s.

“Get rid of the mystery and suspicion [involved when] the police investigate themselves,” Haas said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California called for an independent civilian review board with broad scope to review and investigate complaints, and the ability to audit police policies and practices.

A representative of Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD) also called for the formation of a full-fledged commission that reports to the City Council.

Currently, the city manager has sole discretion over whether the board’s recommendations will be implemented.

“We believe a single person should not hold such power when it comes to the safety and trust of the community,” said Alex Rosado, a representative of OCCORD.

Several residents also commented on the police department’s response to the incident last week between the Los Angeles police officer, 34-year-old Kevin Ferguson, and a group of teens.

Cell phone video taken by a bystander shows 13-year-old Christian Dorscht, struggling to escape the grip of Ferguson, who was holding onto the boy’s arm and hoodie. When one teen tries to pull Dorscht free, another teen shoves Ferguson over a hedge. During the ensuing struggle, Ferguson pulls a gun from his waistband and a shot is heard.

Ferguson was not arrested, although Dorscht and a 15-year-old boy who intervened were both arrested.

“It is disappointing to see the Anaheim Police Department arrest our youth and not treat Mr. Ferguson in the same manner,” said Brianna, a woman who lives near the neighborhood where the altercation occurred, who only gave her first name. “We are condoning his type of disrespectful behavior that is toxic to our youth.”

Kring argued that people dissatisfied with the board were among a small minority.

The Public Safety Board, aside from a cohort of activists who have followed all its meetings, has not drawn large crowds.

“I really do not want to see a complete overhaul. It’s worked, it’s had 12 meetings, people can go to meetings any time they want,” Kring said. “I know some people go and are not happy with the results, but on the whole it has proved to be very effective.

Kring did not cite any examples.

Murray said the vast majority of police interactions with the public do not involve any use of force, citing 2016 figures from the police department. Those figures indicated force was used in just one half of one percent of cases, she said.

“I don’t see a metric [to justify] escalating the powers of the board, given the amount of interaction we have today that result in use of force,” Murray said.

Moreno disagreed, noting that both the members of the board and residents who participate in the meetings have continually raised concerns about the board’s purpose.

“All one needs to do is read the minutes and you will see the entire community is not in accord with how the board is working,” said Moreno.

Councilman Steve Faessel said the council should consider changing the membership of the board so that all its members were representative of the city’s six council districts.

Mayor Tom Tait added that the board should be able to issue findings about critical incidents like police-involved shootings.

The council will continue their discussion of the Public Safety Board at a future meeting, Tait said, at which time the city would provide a formal opportunity for public input.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • Cynthia Ward

    “Other than a couple of comments, I’ve had no public feedback from our residents expressing concerns…I think that also speaks volumes,” said Murray, who added she had not heard any members of the board express dissatisfaction with its current form.

    Gee, when you set up a Board to NOT report to you, I guess you wouldn’t hear back from them, would you Kris? And the only way to claim “residents” have not spoken out is when one ignores the many residents who HAVE spoken at City Council, because as Lucille Kring pointed out, those who speak at every Council meeting are clearly biased and therefore to be ignored.

    The kicker of the evening was Kring complaining that the public runs to judgement against Police or even off duty Police, when merely bits of video are offered (because we are not to trust our own eyes, but only the fact produced by the union members that shovel funds into the gaping maw of Kring’s constant runs for higher office) and we are WRONG to judge others, because–wait for it–Kring says ALL are INNOCENT until proven guilty. Unless, of course, so many law enforcement bullets went into you that your head was nearly severed, then by all means it “saves us a trial” to be summarily executed. She really needs to review her own talking points before opening her mouth, someone might call her on her flip flopping. Oh yeah, she doesn’t like THAT either.

  • RyanCantor

    “I don’t see a metric [to justify] escalating the powers of the board, given the amount of interaction we have today that result in use of force,” Murray said.

    Like the metrics supporting half a billion in hotel tax giveaways? Nope. No metrics there.

    The metrics supporting $360,000,000 worth of city owned property to the Angels? Nope. None their either.

    How about the metrics supporting $300,000,000 of Convention Center improvements? Again. Nothing.

    So . . . according to Kris Murray, no metrics when spending your money, but a kid gets shot at and WHERE ARE THE METRICS?

    Constituents aren’t metrics, Kris. They’re people. Go talk to to one. Maybe you’ll learn something.

    • David Zenger

      These people abuse “metrics” like Ferguson abused a minor. The real story is that government bureaucrats selectively collect data and present it in a biased way to politicians who don’t know their rear ends from their elbows.

      The most important person a government agency could hire would be a professional statistician.

    • Philmore

      “..Go talk to to one. Maybe you’ll learn something. ” Slim chance. Can only be programmed by her handlers, to repeat their talking points ad infinitum and ad nauseum, not for input.

  • David Zenger

    “Kring did not cite any examples.”

    That’s the way it always was with the Kleptocracy’s marionettes. They got vacuous talking points (in the case of Murray, full of meaningless govspeak jargon) handed to them that’s full of vague assertions and “obvious” observations that never amount to anything except more wealth and less accountability to Anaheim’s oligarchy.

    Impartial empirical analysis means nothing.

    And here’s the oligarchy:

    Police union
    Fire Union
    SOAR
    Arte Moreno & His Fabulous Los Angeles Angels
    Chamber of Commerce
    Disney
    Hotel Developer
    Any Other Pringle client

    etc.

  • LFOldTimer

    “During a brief study session before their regular meeting, Councilman Jose Moreno called for expansion of the Public Safety Board into an “independent, investigative police commission” with the ability to issue subpoenas and investigate incidents.”

    Now there’s a council person who’s on the ball and understands the problem.

    My guess is that both Kring and Murray are in the back pockets of public safety.

    What’s the use of having a group of citizens who are (for convenience sake) alleged to be engaged in police oversight when they have no investigative or subpoena powers and effectively have no voice in reform since they report to the CM who is likely a water boy for the cops and decides whether or not to use the ideas generated by the “Public Safety Board”?

    Ludicrous.

    You might as well just hire Stephen Connolly to run the show.

    Why isn’t anyone pointing to the successes of the Citizen Police Oversight Boards that operate in many municipalities throughout California?

    Speaker Attorney David Haas actually worked with the Citizens Review Board in San Diego. He knows what a great success that has been and how it has cut the incidence of police abuse cases without adversely impacting public safety.

    Cops make tremendous salaries and pensions. They have to be accountable to someone other than lapdogs in the system that protect them. Nobody wants to live in a police state where those assigned great powers over citizens can run roughshod over the civil rights of citizens and the US Constitution.

    Just look at the OCSD illegal informant scandal and how that has tainted the justice system in OC and greatly diminished the trust and confidence of the citizens in the police powers.

    Somebody has to stand up to the bullies!

    • David Zenger

      “My guess is that both Kring and Murray are in the back pockets of public safety.”

      Oh, stop it. That’s not a “guess.”

      • LFOldTimer

        You know the Anaheim council much better than I do. I don’t pay too much attention to the council personalities or their finances. But after a city consultant’s report criticized the current PSB Kring and Murray claimed they haven’t heard anybody voice dissatisfaction – how could anyone take either seriously?

        • Philmore

          They are technically correct – not that there WASN’T any, just that THEY DIDN’T HEAR IT ! (LOL) Oh-So-Typical “Newspeak” from the Twins.

    • RyanCantor

      Kring and Murray were both loudly endorsed by Orange County’s leading authority on transparent and effective public safety– our magnanimous District Attorney.

      • LFOldTimer

        Wasn’t the District Attorney the same one who came out of litigation retirement to prosecute 2 Fullerton cops who were caught on audio and video tape as part of a group of 6 cops holding down and viciously beating a 135 pound schizophrenic while he screamed “I’m sorry” and “Help me, dad” ultimately killing him – and lost the verdict to a full-blown acquittal?

        Yeah, that’s what I thought.

        So what are the chances he would prosecute the off-duty LAPD cop who discharged a weapon in public?

        • RyanCantor

          Interesting note on that last bit . . . Anaheim prosecutes its own violations of its municipal code, not the DA.

          Anaheim won’t be able to pawn all of this off on Tony. The adult who provoked this confrontation will need to answer for potential violations of 6.32.030, 6.32.060, and 6.52.020.