Orange County supervisors are scheduled to hold a special public hearing Friday to gather input about civilian oversight of law enforcement from experts and others.
The hearing, which starts at 9 a.m. at the county Hall of Administration, comes as supervisors decide what should replace their existing civilian oversight agency.
“Oversight of law enforcement in Orange County is not working,” supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer, who organized the meeting, said in a statement.
“I found out more about law enforcement incidents from the newspaper than from the Office of Independent Review,” he added, referring to the existing agency. “In order to get a model that actually provides oversight, we have to start over.”
The hearing comes after county supervisors revealed plans last month to completely strip the funding of the county’s Office of Independent Review (OIR), which monitors use-of-force investigations and complaints at the Sheriff’s Department.
Yet when it came time to make the final decision, a majority changed their mind amid a strong endorsement of the office by Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.
Speakers at Friday's hearing include Merrick Bobb, who was special counsel to Los Angeles County supervisors regarding its sheriff’s department from 1993 to 2014. He now heads the private Police Assessment Resource Center, which is hired to conduct reviews of law enforcement agencies across the country.
Also testifying will be Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens, sheriff’s deputies’ union President Tom Dominguez, National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement President Brian Buchner, OIR Group Principal Michael Gennaco and UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who is also a Voice of OC board member.
(Click here for a press release on the hearing and the speakers’ biographies.)
Members of the public will also be able to address supervisors for three minutes each.
In convening experts and stakeholders for extended public testimony on a specific topic, Spitzer is taking an approach often used by legislators at the state and federal level, but rarely used by policymakers in Orange County.
There’s a ticking clock to approve a new model, given that the county’s existing contract with the agency's director, Steve Connolly, expires at the end of August.
“I personally don’t want to see any gap” in oversight, Spitzer said at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting.
“We have an absolute responsibility to have oversight over law enforcement in this county.”