Inspired by the nation’s events of excessive use of force by the police, and the large cost of the Sheriff’s Department to the city, an Ad Hoc committee headed by Pro Tem Mayor Paloma Aguirre and Councilman Ed Spriggs was formed. The goals of the committee are to receive input from the community on stories and experiences with deputies, review the Sheriff’s Department contract to look at possible cost savings and review the use of force policies. A report based on the Ad Hoc committee findings will be presented to the city council on Sept. 16.

During the fourth Ad Hoc committee meeting on Aug. 29, City Manager Andy Hall gave a summary of the previous meetings. The city has requested city specific racial data from the Sheriff’s Department but so far has been unsuccessful. The Sheriff’s Department has produced a report on countywide racial numbers by stops perceived by race (before motorists are pulled over): White 53 percent, Latino 30 percent, Black 8 percent. Those numbers include stops made by deputies in non-Sheriff’s Department territory.

Using community policing for non-emergency calls, such as the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, Oregon, was discussed at the last meeting. The city currently spends about 36 percent of the budget on law enforcement compared to other cities in the county who spend about 30 percent. Hall pointed out that these comparisons with other cities can be deceiving since every community is structured differently.

During the past meetings, residents’ comments made clear that there is a misconnect between perceived use of force between the deputies and the residents. Recently the Sheriff’s Department has started collecting data on “pointing” defined as each time a gun or taser is removed from its holster and “detaining” when a person is placed in handcuffs. The committee has also tried to find out about anecdotal information on use of force based on race.

The committee and the two consultants Mike Gray and Dr. Keisha Clark have put together a draft with findings so far. Recommendations for the council include: The Ad Hoc committee will continue its work past the Sept. 16 council meeting to collect more data and keep open the dialogue with the Sheriff’s Department; create a code of conduct for deputies; request an implementation of community policing; request the Sheriff’s Department to come up with alternative policing models by the first year after the renegotiation of the contract; and the city manager and the Sheriff’s Department will work together to look at expenses between the law enforcement contract and the city’s estimated revenue. In addition, they will consider hiring community service officers that can respond to non-emergency calls.

Spriggs spoke about implicit bias and suggested a “training regime that reflects training and awareness of implicit bias… we want to recognize that is a very important element,” he said.

Aguirre suggested including a cultural competency training for de-escalating confrontations.

During public comment, a resident asked how the proposed oversight committee will work. Aguirre answered that it would probably look like other city boards with a minimum of one council member and members of the community. Aguirre added that like other committees the positions are advertised. Residents apply, then they are interviewed by the city council. Spriggs said that the oversight committee would be the forum where residents could file complaints and share observations. The committee will collect this information and periodically meet with Lt. Marquez and discuss concerns and issues.

It was clarified that currently all contracts with Sheriff’s Department have standard operating procedure throughout the county with one common code of conduct.

Spriggs said that simply sitting down with Marquez and relaying community concerns will move the city forward in community-sheriff’s relations also “raising awareness that we are paying attention as elected officials…we are searching for a way to influence how policing is done in Imperial Beach, to address concerns including community policing… personalized community policing,” he said.

Clark explained that training for officers should include implicit and unconscious bias, and look at racial bias in addition to cultural competence training. She pointed out that although the Sheriff’s Department may have deputies that look racially diverse, it doesn’t mean they are competent in dealing with trauma and ethnicity. She suggested the training should be force required and ongoing and be different than a lecture in a classroom.

Spriggs said that the actual behavior during the police-community encounters are vital and implicit bias should be removed from the situation - treat a person of color how you would treat a white person of similar age.

The next Ad Hoc Committee meeting will be held on Sept. 12 at 9 a.m. on YouTube. Email ibmanager@imperialbeachca.gov. for more information.

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