Anaheim is finally on the verge of creating a body that will include residents in police oversight, but all is quiet. Departing city manager Marcie Edwards will set in motion a pilot program for a "Public Safety Board" later today, during a previously unscheduled council meeting.
No other city in Orange County can claim to have any citizen oversight board of law enforcement–and in this case, the Fire Department, too. But the last time policing the police was raised, the City Council cried Marxism. So why the silence now?
To refresh readers' memory, expensive robocalls went out last year by former Mayor Curt Pringle and Anaheim Police Association President Kerry Condon ridiculously claiming creating such a board would "lead to more violence against police and less public safety." This time around? Not so much. The agenda item is easy to miss, being simply noted as "Public Safety Board update" with no description.
After years of foot dragging, the city will trot out a weak-salsa excuse for oversight that tosses the Anaheim Fire Department into the fray. (Because we all remember in the summer of 2012 when a Dalmatian somehow got loose from a fire truck after a fireman-involved hosing and started biting Mexicans on Anna Drive, right?). The Public Safety Board will bring together piecemeal components. Unlike in Fullerton, the program to be comprised of nine members selected by lottery won't be sacrificed at the altar of the Los Angeles-based Office of Independent Review (OIR) but instead will work in tandem with it.
In a council meeting last June, a unanimous vote with very little public discussion nearly doubled OIR's contract, carving out a role for it as an external auditor of APD's Internal Affairs investigations. The firm's objectivity was called into question at the time by Weekly "Best Gadfly" Duane Roberts, who showed that the APD's budget funded it in the past as it received lofty praise from Condon himself. Surprise, surprise!
While the OIR gets its paychecks, the nine-member Public Safety Board won't get even a stipend for their troubles. The resident component of police oversight will also be bereft of subpoena powers. Edwards quickly dismisses the question in a staff report, calling it "likely to be ineffective" without much in-depth to back the claim. A comparison chart shows that cities and counties, like San Diego County, do have boards with such powers…just that Anaheim's pilot program won't.
A time table is given saying that the City Manager's Office will handle applications, but the Public Safety Board will be staffed long after Edwards' departs for her new digs as head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
The summer of 2014 is when it's expected to begin its work, two years after officer-involved shootings and a downtown riot set the city ablaze.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz