This is the final installment in the seven part series.
I’ve spent the last six entries discussing the weaknesses and problems that the current Davis Ombudsman Ordinance faces. During the course of that discussion were some implicit and explicit suggestions for improvement. This final installment will put together a number of those suggestions into a final proposal.
Alternative Ombudsman Models:
There have been a number of proposals for a civilian review board. A civilian review board is generally composed of a professional investigator, who would fulfill the primary tasks that an Ombudsman or Auditor would fill, and there would be a body of appointed citizens who would hear complaints from the public and recommend investigations. That investigation would be carried out by the investigator and presented in public meetings to the review board who could then make recommendations.
A civilian review board would be a good ultimate goal for this community, but it seems clear that a good deal of the community right now and the police are not receptive to the ideal of civilian oversight.
As such, here are several recommendations made based on the examination of the current model and current problems.
- Strengthen the Ombudsman position by making it a full-time position. As we’ve seen, the City Manager has had difficulty finding a qualified person to take a part-time position and it seems clear at this point that the city needs a full-time position. In the future, we might be able to cut back on that as department practices adjust to avoid continued complaints and adverse findings.
- Give the Ombudsman a stronger role in the initial investigation. Both the
San Joseand models would accomplish that. The Boise model would be a less drastic change but it would have a great impact simply allowing the ombudsman to monitor and participate in the entire investigation. The San Jose model would change who conducts the primary investigation. Boise
- Strengthen the PAC by using it to replace the Internal Affairs Department. This is drastic, but it seems very clear that the IAD cannot police or even properly investigate complaints against the police. The PAC is made up of legal professionals, a retired police chief and two attorneys. These are not amateurs. The current model puts them as mere observers; this change would put them into the forefront of the investigation.
- Strengthen the CAB by giving it specific advisory authority. Right now the CAB is not being used as a Community Advisory group. It needs to be given specific charges to advise the police on specific department policy.
- Improve Community Outreach. There needs to be forums for the public to participate to express concerns. Some of this happens already. However, in order for this to work properly, the department needs to go into the minority communities and actually interact with segments of the public who feel aggrieved in the current climate—that includes students, the African-American, Muslim-American, and Mexican-American communities.
- Improve Representation on the Boards. Find a way to get diverse opinions on these boards. Find students not heavily involved in student government. Find minority students. Find people who represent youth. Find representatives from the minority communities who may not support current polices. Give the public a true forum by which to express their views. And make the CAB meetings, public meeting.
- Re-instate the Human Relations Commission. When the City Council shut down the HRC, it shutdown the most effective body to register dissatisfaction with current system. By removing its membership, the Council chilled the possibility of a future Commission that would heavily voice its dissent of Council goals. That creates a very dangerous precedent for future interactions.