FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who are San Diegans for Justice?
San Diegans for Justice is an umbrella organization for the coalition that wrote, proposed, and supports the ballot measure to create an independent, community-led Commission on Police Practices. San Diegans for Justice is a political action committee (PAC) specifically for supporting the passage of the ballot measure, and while our member organizations are heavily involved in all aspects of the fight for justice, we focus on police oversight in the City of San Diego.
What are the main reforms the Commission would bring?
The current members of the Community Review Board on Police Practices (CRB) are hard-working volunteers who care deeply about community safety and police oversight. However, the model they have to work with only allows them to review investigations done by the police department, giving them limited power to create the change we need. The new Commission on Police Practices would:
Have independent investigators who are not employed by SDPD.
Have the power to subpoena officers, documents, and witnesses in relation to investigations.
Have independent legal counsel who is not also responsible for defending SDPD or the City.
Have the duty to independently investigate every police shooting and instance of in-custody death.
Have the ability to investigate certain types of misconduct without a complaint, such as domestic violence by police officers.
Have the duty to audit SDPD’s compliance with local, state, and federal laws—such as body cam policies and gathering racial profiling data.
Have the duty to make annual public reports regarding their findings to increase transparency in policing.
Why does the Commission need independent legal counsel?
Currently the City Charter is set up so that the CRB receives legal counsel from the Office of the City Attorney, which is also responsible for defending the police department and the City from officer misconduct lawsuits. This is a clear conflict of interest, and as such, the City Attorney’s Office has allowed the current CRB to contract with outside counsel since 2017. Our ballot measure would ensure this independence becomes permanent.
Why does the Commission need independence from the Mayor’s Office?
The Mayor’s Office is the only office in the City that has the power to discipline the police department. Currently the Executive Director for the CRB is a mayoral appointee who serves at the pleasure of the Mayor’s Office and answers directly to the Mayor, rather than to the civilians who are charged with overseeing the police. This allows for political pressure to interfere with oversight and with the actions taken by the Mayor. Politics has no place in transparency and accountability of the police department and we must protect the Commission from it as much as possible.
Why does the Commission need independent investigators?
Currently, the CRB cannot investigate police misconduct, and must wait for internal investigations to conclude and then review them. Quite simply, that means the police are policing themselves, and that is not acceptable. The Commission’s investigators will be able to hold independent, external investigations that can transparently conclude whether or not police misconduct occurred.
Why does the Commission need subpoena power?
Sometimes, it may become necessary to force the police department to give over documents, witnesses, or other evidence that it has collected in relation to an accusation of misconduct. Hopefully the police department will cooperate with investigations and this won’t be an issue. But civilian oversight needs all possible tools at its disposal to ensure we get the truth.
Why does the Commission need the power to investigate without a complaint being filed?
Simply put, some victims are not in the position to make a complaint. They’re in the hospital or incarcerated. They’re afraid of retaliation. Unfortunately, sometimes they die. Even in less-lethal situations, some victims are afraid of retaliation. We don’t want community members afraid to seek justice, or for their only option to be to sue the City. San Diego spends an average of $4.4 million on police misconduct suits. It’s not fair to taxpayers.
Why does the Commission not have to investigate every single complaint filed?
We looked at police oversight boards and commissions across the country for what worked and what didn’t work. One common problem we found was bodies that are required to investigate every single complaint and therefore missed important investigations for lack of resources. We also found boards that had no requirements and that resulted in a lack of priorities as well. We wanted to ensure that the Commission spends its resources on the most important cases, such as shootings and in-custody deaths. We don’t want to just look at cases after someone has died or made a complaint. We want to prevent injury, death, and abuse of community members. We must make sure that the Commission isn’t just reactive, but that it’s also proactive. We must ensure that we aren’t just investigating, but also reviewing and auditing all decisions, policies, and procedures. That’s how we prevent future misconduct and violence, keeping our communities safer.
Who would be on the Commission?
Passing the ballot measure to change the City Charter to create the Commission on Police Practices is only step one. Because of California law governing human resources in chartered cities, step two is for the San Diego City Council to create a supporting ordinance that governs the infrastructure and HR of the Commission. The decision of who would be on the Commission will be made then, and we will need your help to ensure the Commission is representative of the communities that need to be served, and not biased in favor of the police department which would undermine its mission. Sign up here to get on our email list and stay in the loop through the whole process.
How would the Commission be funded?
The Commission will be funded through the City’s annual budget process. The community will have to remain vigilant each year to ensure the Commission is being adequately funded to fulfill its purpose.
Can we defund SDPD without affecting the Commission’s budget?
Yes, the Commission’s funding will be a separate line item in the City budget than the police department. It will be the duty of the community to hold elected officials accountable to a budget that reflects our values and invests in community over criminalization.
Will this solve all police-related problems in San Diego?
No. We have no delusions that this is some kind of magic pill that will solve all problems with policing and unfair criminal justice in our communities. However, independent oversight is one important part of an overall movement to make police more transparent and accountable to the communities they are supposed to serve and protect.
What can I do to help?
We need to get the ballot measure passed, and that takes two types of resources: Money and People Power. Donate to San Diegans for Justice today to help us get our message out. Sign up to volunteer to make calls and send texts to voters. You can also sign up to host a virtual house party where we will tell all your friends and neighbors about the ballot measure and why it’s so important to San Diego. Belong to a community group? Sign up here to have a member of San Diegans for Justice come speak to you all. We welcome anything and everything you can do to get the word out!
Can businesses donate?
Yes. We have had several small San Diego businesses contribute portions of their profit to San Diegans for Justice and welcome more community involvement and creativity at every level. Contact our team and we will work with you to get the logistics sorted out.
I’m interested in doing this in my city. Where do I start?
The first place to start is by creating a small group of concerned citizens who are willing to do the work. What we’ve learned in this process is that the community can’t count on the government to get this done for them. Once you have your group together, and you’re ready to dedicate the time, our team would be happy to speak with you regarding increasing police oversight in your city and provide some next steps and best practices.