Citizens' Review Board Brings in Backup - Voice of San Diego

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Citizens' Review Board Brings in Backup

San Diego’s new police citizen review board director comes from Albany, N.Y. The board chair hopes she’ll help boost outreach and transparency.

The San Diego Citizens’ Review Board on Police Practices provides a second set of eyes on police misconduct cases. But, until recently, the board was operating without a full-time staff member.

The city named Sharmaine Moseley executive director of the board this month. Moseley comes to San Diego from the citizen review board in Albany, N.Y.

San Diego’s board, which is made up of volunteers and reviews the police department’s handling of citizen complaints against its officers, has shared a director with the Human Relations Commission since 2010. Former Director Patrick Hunter went to a similar board at the county after the city cut his position to balance its budget.

Now with paid help, board chair Yuki Marsden said there’s an opportunity to increase outreach and transparency. She said she wants more San Diegans to be aware of the group and feel comfortable going to it for help. She also wants to see an online system to submit complaints against police and track the results.

“I hope that she would be able to shepherd forward the CRB into the 21st century,” Marsden said.

Marsden thinks Moseley can do it. She said before Moseley’s résumé landed on her desk, she admired the clarity of Albany’s website. It lays out what to expect when lodging a complaint and surveys civilians who go through the process.

“I thought there were some best practices that we could copy,” Marsden said. “So I think her experiences – and bringing somebody in from the outside who has the experience – will be good.”

Albany’s review board also lists community groups it has trained to help people file complaints. And Moseley and her team pushed through years of union negotiations to implement a mediation program that lets officers and the citizens who filed complaints against them talk out their problems face to face.

But Albany’s board has been criticized for siding with police investigative findings 97 percent of the time, according to the Times Union in Albany. (San Diego’s board found the police were not at fault in about 72 percent of cases in 2014.) Moseley told the newspaper in 2012 that despite the rate her board exonerates officers, it does net change. It successfully petitioned for an early warning system that identifies problem officers and got the department to install dashboard cameras.

But much of the frustration with Albany’s review board – and San Diego’s, for that matter – could come from its lack of teeth. Or, Marsden would say, a lack of understanding about its teeth.

Albany and San Diego’s review boards are not the panacea many want them to be when police-community relations are at their lowest. They do not have the power of subpoena and cannot investigate claims against police. They can only investigate how the department handled those claims, and they can’t force discipline or policy changes.

But they can be a squeaky wheel in the mayor’s office. And now they have a paid squeaky wheel. She starts Feb. 2.

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