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Inside Lee Brand's attempt to reshape police oversight

2017: Redrawing the Map of Police Oversight

Now we come to Mayor Brand’s proposed changes to the status quo. He is submitting to the council several items. One of them is a resolution.

“Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Council of the City of Fresno as follows: 1. The Council hereby states its support for the Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board, as established by the Mayor. 2. The Policy Proposal for the OIR shall be amended as in the attached Exhibit A.”

I don’t understand why Point No. 1 is necessary. If the council approves the amendments, then it obviously supports the concept of the Board.

It’s also unclear to me what proposed amendments Brand is talking about and what part of the existing OIR legislation is being amended.

I asked the City Clerk’s Office on Monday for a copy of Exhibit A. I was given a copy of the resolution, the Board’s bylaws, a staff report written by Brand (but, apparently, not co-written by Dyer) and a one-page summary of the Board’s key provisions. None of it was identified specifically as an “amendment” to what the council approved in March 2009.

Nor did I find an Exhibit A. Perhaps Exhibit A is in that stack of papers, but simply not identified that way.

I asked myself: Is the council on Thursday being asked to vote on the bylaws rather than Exhibit A? If so, does that mean the council with a veto-proof five votes can change any part of the bylaws?

Or, are the bylaws simply a statement of Brand’s policy intentions within the confines of his office, and therefore outside the authority of the council?

Is the council being asked to give its stamp of approval in open session to an effort by Brand to amend an eight-year-old legislative act through mayoral fiat rather than council votes?

Is Brand trying to put one over on the council?

I asked myself these questions because that stack of papers from the City Clerk’s Office, when combined with the 2009 council-approved legislation creating the OIR, has (in my opinion) produced a confusing mess for the voting public.

The Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board is to consist of nine voting members. All nine are to be appointed by the Mayor.

The advisory board’s nine members will, in turn, have their own advisory board. These advisers, five of them, won’t have votes. Among these five non-voting advisers to the advisers, one will be appointed by the Police Chief, one by the Fresno Police Officers Association, one by the Fresno County District Attorney, one by the Mayor from the Mayor’s staff, and one by the police auditor.

The City Council? Drop dead.

As you can see, the Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board is strictly a creation of the Mayor.

There’s nothing wrong with that. The Mayor, should he find enough volunteers, can have advisory boards coming out of his ears if that’s what he wants. The Mayor handles the Mayor’s Office, no one else.

But the Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board’s purpose isn’t to grab the Mayor’s attention. Its purpose is to be a fundamental part of the Office of Independent Review. Its purpose is to be a co-police auditor. Its purpose, should push come to shove, is to be first among equals in the new world created by council action on March 24, 2009.

Article I, Section 3 of the proposed Bylaws outlines the Board’s powers and duties. There are nine of them:

1.) “Advise the Office of Independent Review (OIR) in helping to define, assess and further develop Community-Based Policing citywide.”

2.) “Monitor and develop performance metrics to measure effectiveness of Community-Based Policing.”

3.) “The OIR will serve as a liaison between the community and the Police Department to mediate problems or conflicts and serve to improve the relationship between the community and the Police Department and report such efforts to the Board.”

4.) “Review all legally available information regarding policies, practices, and procedures of the Police Department and made recommendations to the OIR.”

5.) “The OIR shall actively monitor Officer Involved Shooting investigations. The OIR shall also participate in the Officer Involved Shooting Review Committee and report to the Board the results of the investigations and review, excluding information protected under the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights (POBRA).”

6.) “The OIR shall actively monitor excessive force and/or unnecessary use of force investigations and report tot eh Board the results of the investigations, excluding information protected under the POBRA.”

7.) “Serve as a panel to review critical incidents for discussion purposes that will be used for recommending policies and practices to the Office of Independent Review. Discussions shall exclude information protected under POBRA.”

8.) “Prepare quarterly reports and recommendations to be voted on by the Board. The report shall be voted on separately, as will each separate recommendation. The approved quarterly reports and recommendations will then be provided to the OIR.”

9.) “The Board shall only possess powers and duties that are expressly authorized by these bylaws and approved amendments per Article VII of these bylaws.”

The police auditor is going to be busy keeping those nine Board members happy.

George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

1 Comment

  1. Plus, there is already a board advising the Police Chief. The Police Chief’s Citizen Advisory Board.

    It does have a representative from each of the Council Districts plus area leaders from various city support groups. These meetings are open and the minutes are available online.

    I have represented Council District 2 since Brian Calhoun’s term.

    But, this board does not serve the purpose the new mayor wants.

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