Santa Ana City Council to Weigh Police Oversight Options

The SanTana City Council will finally discuss police oversight during its meeting tomorrow afternoon. Mayor Pro Tem Michele Martinez put the issue on the council agenda, directing city staff to establish an independent review or citizen review board for overseeing incidents of force, police policies and procedures.

“I have seen to [sic] many excessive force lawsuits that have become very expensive for the city,” Martinez wrote on her Facebook page. “It is time that the city look for new policies that will reduce the number of such claims in the future.”

The Weekly reported earlier this month that SanTana quietly settled two officer-involved shooting lawsuits for a combined total of $6.8 million last year, including a record payout for $3.7 million in the case of Jason Hallstrom. In 2012, the city also negotiated a pre-trail settlement of $1 million in the fatal killing of Andres Ramirez. And the controversial shootings keep coming.

Officer David Prewett opened fire and killed 18-year-old Steve Salgado in late January. The young man’s relatives are lawyering up for a civil court case against the department.

The only city in the county to have civilian oversight of its police force is Anaheim—and it ain’t much. Formed out of the 2012 Anaheim Riots, the Public Safety Board meets quarterly, but members wonder why it exists more that a year after it first convened.

Anaheim blends both the auditor model through Michael Gennaco’s Office of Independent Review (OIR) and a citizen review board, though the latter is the weakest link in the chain under the thumb of City Manager Paul Emery and is bereft of subpoena powers.

What recommendations SanTana city staff could return with remains to be seen. Just the very idea of a citizen review board probably won’t find much favor with council members Jose Solorio, Juan Villegas and Mayor Miguel Pulido. The cop-friendly council trio owes a big part of their political lives to the SanTana Police Officers’ Association.

Whatever the case, the Weekly will be overseeing the overseers like always. Stay tuned…

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