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City Settles With Police Union Over Role on New Commission

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By Jorge Casuso

November 10, 2021 -- The City Council on Tuesday approved a settlement agreement with the Santa Monica Police Officers Association (SMPOA) that allows the union greater participation in the recently formed police oversight commission.

The agreement -- which was approved on a 6 to 0 vote -- adds a non-voting member selected by the union and police chief to the 11-member Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission.

The new member cannot be a City official or member of the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD), said Interim City Attorney Joe Lawrence.

The settlement addresses the duties and authority of the Inspector General hired to provide the Commission with information needed to conduct investigations and develop recommendations.

Under the settlement, the City's budget will contain funds to hire an IG, who may gather information regarding ongoing disciplinary investigations but cannot participate in those investigations.

In addition, the Inspector General may not disclose to the Commission or any third party SMPD disciplinary or personnel records except as permitted by state or federal law.

Last month, the City Council voted to authorize a five-year $700,000 contract with the OIR Group -- which produced a report on the Police Department's response to the May 31, 2019 riots -- to serve as IG ("Council Authorizes $700,000 Contract for Inspector General for Police Oversight Commission," October 15, 2021).

The settlement also bars the Commission from participating in individual disciplinary investigations but allows it to refer individuals to SMPD so they may make a complaint.

Under the settlement, the Commission must provide 72-hour notice to the city manager, police chief or police union of any reports presented to the Commission.

In addition, any member appointed to the Commission must complete the required training within six months, while existing members have until May 31, 2022.

SMPOA officials issued a statement Thursday saying that "now is the time to reimagine our ideas about public safety.

The union said it is excited to work with the other stakeholders "to enact meaningful reforms that will make Santa Monica a leader in community driven policing."

"The sworn public servants represented by the SMPOA are committed to a safe and equitable Santa Monica where the rights of all people are protected, and we’re hopeful that this is the beginning of a new era of community collaboration to that most vital end," the union said.

The POA's lawsuit contended that the union's participation is required by California's 2013 Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, which is intended to promote "uniform and orderly methods of communication between employees and the public agencies by which they are employed."

While the City has included members of the Police Department, it has failed to include the POA, the union's attorneys said.

City officials countered that the process to create a commission has included members of the police department and the POA, who sat on the Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee and weighed in at City Council meetings.

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