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Letters for the Week of May 15, 2013

Readers sound off on disabled parking and the OPD.

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By way of background, in June 2011, the City Council approved a two-year budget allocating nearly $1.5 million in funding to transfer complaint intake from OPD to the CPRB, effective in the second year starting July 2012. However, in January 2012, facing a budget shortfall of $28 million due to the state's sudden elimination of redevelopment that resulted in significant budget cuts, the City Council voted to postpone civilianization of the complaint intake process by six months until January 2013, which was just four months ago.

2. It is incorrect that the CPRB "is so understaffed and underfunded that complaints often take more than a year to investigate."

[Reporter Ali] Winston offers no data to back up this inaccuracy, and he did not fact-check this statement with CPRB staff. In fact, most cases are fully investigated with findings before the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations. In the past two years, only three to four percent of the cases were closed due to an expired statute of limitations, and some cases are closed because the complainant filed too close to or after the expired statute, which would not be a result of limited staffing.

3. The assertion that the effort to civilianize the intake process was "further hampered" by the transfer of OIG to the city administrator's office and that the city administrator "earmarked $237,625 from the $700,000 budgeted for the civilianization of internal affairs to pay for two performance auditors and a manager for the Inspector General's Office" is flat-out wrong.

In fact, the city council supported and voted to fully and separately fund both of these efforts (approximately $700,000 for civilian intake and $237,625 for the transfer of OIG). They are not competing priorities, either from a funding or implementation standpoint, and they are fully supported by the mayor, the city administrator and the city council.

These inaccuracies illustrate the overall mistaken premise of the story and reveal an incomplete understanding of the processes and guidelines which must be followed to sustainably implement these important reforms, which are a key priority of the administration.

In a recent city council meeting and accompanying staff report, Deanna Santana explained the requirement for the newly appointed compliance director to review and approve the proposal to civilianize complaint intake. She was referring to a federal court order issued on December 12, 2012, which requires the city to consult with the compliance director regarding policies, personnel decisions and operations related to the tasks or objectives of the NSA:

From the December 12, 2012 Court Order:

B. Role of the Monitor Upon Appointment of the Compliance Director

1. The requirement in the January 24, 2012 order for consultation with the Monitor will terminate upon appointment of the Compliance Director. However, Defendants will not implement any of the types of changes or actions identified in the January 24, 2012 order without the Compliance Director's direction or approval.

From the January 24, 2012 Court Order:

 IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that, effective immediately, the Chief must regularly consult with the Monitor on all major decisions that may impact compliance with the NSA, including but not limited to:

• changes to policies, the manual of rules, or standard operating procedures;

• personnel decisions, including promotions, engagement of consultants, and

disciplinary actions in Class I misconduct cases;

• tactical initiatives that may have a direct or indirect impact on the NSA; and

• procurement of equipment, including software, that is intended for the purpose ofNSA compliance.

These reforms — civilianization of the complaint intake process and transfer of the Office of Inspector General from OPD to the city administrator's office — directly relate to and may impact compliance with the NSA tasks and objectives and clearly require consultation with the compliance director. Per the court orders, the city administrator has requested the compliance director's review and approval for the reorganization effort, and he has communicated his interest in involving the federal monitor in those discussions.

Both of these efforts require consultation with the compliance director as well as "meet and confer" with the police officers' union and other employee bargaining groups, since each proposal would result in changes to current work conditions. Should the city act unilaterally to expedite these reforms, as Mr. Winston seems to suggest, we risk violating the terms of the NSA, numerous federal court orders and legally binding contractual agreements with employee bargaining groups.

Finally, the article mentioned that a person who spoke at the city council meeting said an officer "advised her against filing a complaint with the police review board, saying the civilian agency 'would publish my phone number and I would get a lot of crank calls.'" The CPRB does not publish complainants' phone numbers or addresses without their consent. This is a serious allegation that, if true, would undermine the community's trust in the complaint intake process. As a result of this comment, CPRB staff has opened an investigation into this matter.

In a democracy, journalists play a critical role in holding government agencies and police departments accountable to the public. We appreciate fair and balanced reporting and feedback about how we can improve the quality of our services to the community. We hope that in the future Mr. Winston will have the journalistic accountability and professionalism to seek comment directly from the people he is writing about and ensure that the facts he reports are accurate and presented in an appropriate and balanced context. An informed public deserves no less.

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