“Public concerns about racial profiling, excessive use of force, deliberate violations of sanctioned evidence handling procedures and corruption create mistrust. When events such as these take center stage, communities begin to question the integrity of their police agencies.” “Police Accountability and Citizen Review‐A Leadership Opportunity for Police Chiefs”, International Association of Chiefs of Police, November 2000.
Way back in 2000 it was recognized that police agencies have issues with excessive force! That was the segway into the 2005-2006 Orange County Grand Jury Report.
As a member of the Orange County Grand Jury, my first question about police oversight was when the OC Sheriff’s department shared two different scenarios to show us how they operated. This was in February 2006 (8 months into our 12-month service). I asked members of our Criminal Justice Committee if they were aware of oversight besides us and the Board of Supervisors. The answer-no one. Well, the mayors of each city of course.
Then we received a letter from Sharon Kennedy, editor for the Fullerton Observer. She asked us to look into jail procedures after a problem in the jail. Our CJ committee determined not to pursue the complaint after a perfunctory visit to the jail. In a second letter she asked, “if not you, who, if not now, when.” I interviewed her and thus began research into the oversight issue resulting in the report: Oversight of Orange County Law Enforcement Agencies Resolving a Dichotomy! http://www.ocgrandjury.org/pdfs/citizenoversight.pdf.
We recommended four actions be taken by Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) in Orange County. The agencies were required to respond and none were willing to accept our recommendations. www.ocgrandjury.org/pdfs/fulpd.pdf.
A year later the Orange County Board of Supervisors was forced to respond to citizen complaints and was reluctant to require OC LEAs to incorporate oversight of their departments. It took the killing in 2011 of a homeless man, Thomas Kelly, by Fullerton police for Fullerton to accept independent review and facilitate necessary changes and training.
I am a staunch supporter of the police. I do not want to defund city police departments. I recognize that the majority of police officers strive, often under dangerous and demanding circumstances, to carry out their duties in a restrained, lawful, and professional manner. As a citizen, I want to feel secure that police officers are in our community to serve and protect all citizens of that community. That said, citizens have a right to assurance that adequate mechanisms are available to review and investigate questionable or unacceptable actions of law enforcement officers.
Recommendations in the OC Grand Jury Report, June 27, 2006
In accordance with California Penal Code §933 and §933.05, each recommendation will be responded to by the government entity to which it is addressed. The responses are to be submitted to the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court. Based on the findings, the 2005‐ 2006 Orange County Grand Jury makes the following recommendations:
- 7.1 Best practices guidelines: The Orange County municipal police departments should consider adopting or developing best practices guidelines appropriate for inclusion in LEAs’ goals/objectives. An example would be the publication of a best practice document as a self‐assessment guide to handling residents’ complaints. (See Findings 6.1 and 6.4.)
- 7.2 Near‐term, independent review of LEA policies, procedures, and compliance: The Orange County municipal police departments, in cooperation with the Orange County City Mayors, should consider contracting for a near‐term independent review of LEAs’ current policies, procedures, and compliance to provide current status as compared to best practices. (See Findings 6.2 and 6.3.)
- 7.3 Periodic, independent reviews of LEA compliance to policies and procedures: The Orange County municipal police departments, in cooperation with the Orange County City Mayors, should consider contracting for periodic, independent reviews of LEAs’ policies and procedures, using best practices guidelines as criteria. (See Findings 6.2 and 6.3.)
- 7.4 Strengthen grand jury: The Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney should recommend specific training to each LEA and citizen oversight committee, including grand juries, directed toward review of resident complaints about LEAs. (See Finding 6.5.)