Building on concerns raised during the social justice movement that summer, South San Francisco expressed an interest in establishing a monitoring committee to review the local law enforcement agency.
Members of the Mayors’ Commission on Social and Racial Justice examined possible roles and responsibilities of the proposed advisory committee during a meeting on Wednesday March 17.
Understanding that the committee’s powers are limited by collective agreements with the police union, hopes were shared that it could be an independent body that would ensure police accountability.
No decision was made at the meeting, but officials said the feedback provided would help formulate a program proposal that would ultimately require approval from the South San Francisco City Council.
Discussions about the idea follow a summer social justice movement in South City in which Black and Latin American residents, as well as others, regularly claimed to be victims of unequal treatment and enforcement by the police.
To address these concerns and a host of other people raised nationally after the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd, South San Francisco officials hoped the proposed committee would be a place to go affected residents would feel safe to file complaints against law enforcement.
Although the specific responsibilities are still being examined, some suggested that it might be appropriate for the Advisory Board to be able to examine specific complaints against the police department. The committee would not have access to confidential information held in officers’ personal files, nor would it have the power to discipline the police.
However, the committee would have the opportunity to make policy recommendations to council members and to keep a close eye on enforcement trends and other specific data about the department.
The committee would be composed of appointed members and would focus solely on matters related to the police. The Mayors’ Commission, also formed following the Summer Social Justice Movement, is set to address a wide variety of justice issues, including housing, economic opportunities and other issues facing disenfranchised communities.
As guests from Portland, Oregon, and National City pondered how the South San Francisco committee should work, they shared their experiences on similar programs.
According to the guests, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that those who ultimately serve on the committee accurately reflect the diversity of the community. In addition, they suggested making the committee meetings open to the public, as with any other advisory council, to ensure transparency and build community trust.
Members of similar committees in other cities added that the programs can be effective tools for building and improving relationships between residents and police departments as ongoing discussions provide a better understanding of priorities and values.
For his part, Commissioner Norm Faria said he appreciated the insights of committee members from other cities, adding that it would be useful for him to get a feel for how the South San Francisco version should work.
“It was very useful to get an overview of how other cities are doing this,” he said.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Bobby Vaughn proposed the work of the committee along with the Chief Diversity Officer, whom South San Francisco officials also discussed recruitment at an earlier Equity Committee meeting.
“I think the chief diversity officer would play a role in setting up the advisory board,” he said.
City Manager Mike Futrell praised the proposal and called it an excellent idea. He said it will be taken into account alongside the various recommendations made by the commissioners, which will ultimately determine the format and responsibilities of the committee.