An advisory board made up of community members will be formed to advise and give input to the chief of police, following a 4-1 vote at a special virtual meeting of the Pleasanton City Council on Thursday.
The council and Pleasanton Police Department held the three-hour online event to facilitate their fourth and most recent public conversation about policing reform, including hearing feedback from residents on police-related matters such as school resource officers, mental health crisis training, and use of force.
Chief's Advisory Board (CAB) members will be selected by Pleasanton Police Chief David Swing; the group would be implemented by Swing, and consult on matters of public safety and provide community policing and department updates to the council twice a year, though the frequency could be increased.
"The key here is it's an opportunity for input from the community, and it's comprised of a diverse cross-section of community members," Swing told the council. "Diversity doesn't have to just mean racial or ethnic diversity -- it could be diversity of age, diversity of backgrounds, diversity of socioeconomic status in the community. It could be business members as well."
According to a staff report, several Bay Area cities have successfully implemented CABs including Lafayette, San Leandro, Santa Clara, and Walnut Creek, "which are all similar in size and activity to Pleasanton."
Though the group would be "proactive" and act as a resource for developing community policing concepts and identifying best practices for PPD, it would not have any authority to "investigate, review, or otherwise participate in matters involving specific police personnel or specific police-related incidents."
CAB members would also not receive or review complaints initiated against personnel, or play a role in any civil or criminal litigation.
"In its capacity as an advisory committee, a CAB is intended to be an expression of the community's perspective to the police department through their direct interactions with the chief of police," staff wrote.
When asked by Councilmember Jerry Pentin what he considered the most important part of the board's formation, Swing replied, "It's the input that would be exceptionally helpful for us."
"The critical component is being able to hear from communities who we aren't hearing from today, and to hear their impressions of Pleasanton, to help them understand policing as well," Swing said.
Staff looked at other oversight models but concluded those such as a police commission "would have the most financial impact because it would require more dedicated staff time to cover meetings and prepare meeting materials."
Vice Mayor Kathy Narum said she had "not heard a justification for a police commission," adding, "I'm not ready to also have a police auditor either."
"We need to be looking at cities that are similar to Pleasanton such as Lafayette, Walnut Creek," Narum said. "I'm not ready to politicize our police department, which is what would happen if we were to have a commission, because guess who's appointing it? Politicians.
"It's just politicizing it and I think our police department at this point deserves better," Narum added.
More than two dozen audience members phoned in for open comment, during which resident Mike Ferrari said a police commission is unnecessary.
"Other than large cities, very few cities have police commissions or independent auditors," Ferrari said, adding the council "is that direct accountability."
Having lived in a city with a police commission before, Jocelyn Combs said, "They can take a life of their own, and I don't think that's the right move for Pleasanton."
However, Combs supported having an independent police auditor, which she said "gives some oversight, and gives the city manager, frankly, some backup when he's the one making the decision with the police chief."
Rishabh Raj argued it made "no sense to have an oversight commission that is involved and is potentially biased in favor of the police."
"Our current model of civilian oversight completely ignores the plain definition of the phrase. It neither represents ordinary citizens nor does it adequately oversee the police," Raj said.
Councilmember Julie Testa agreed the selection of members by the chief of police "is not in any way oversight" and said, "The best model to avoid the political maneuvering and maliciousness that has been going on is the independent auditor, because it is a law enforcement background agency that looks at things with a law enforcement perspective. Nowhere in the (PCAB) is any opportunity to look at citizen complaints."
Sergeant Nicholas Albert, president of the Pleasanton Police Officers Association, said it is the group's position "that overseeing the police department is the shared responsibility of the city council, the city manager, the police chief and his administrative staff," and they are "confident in the existing city structure."
"What problem are we trying to solve? What has a single member of my organization done to draw your concern?" Albert said. "Or are we simply making changes at the demands of those who have never taken an oath nor put on the uniform?"
Testa later stated she has "great respect and trust in our department," and said "no one on this council has ever made any indication of supporting defunding the police."
"There is a lot of fear mongering and misinformation that is being promoted in our community," she added. "This issue is not about an incident that happened somewhere else in the country. We have outstanding officers and a really great new chief, but we've had three critical incidents in four years, in Pleasanton. We are not immune to the concerns."
Councilmember Karla Brown, who is currently running for mayor along with Pentin, said she supports having a CAB but said "most residents have been very surprised" when told no oversight projects have come to the council in the past eight years.
Brown then asked Pentin if he had ever seen any, adding, "I just want to make clear that your motion involves having a more involved city council."
Pentin replied, "That's exactly what I said. It says in the recommendation that as well as twice-per-year community policing department updates to the city council, and the city council has the opportunity to increase that, if the city council feels it's necessary."
"And we have had updates," he added, noting past annual reports delivered by the former police chief.
"You've been receiving the same thing that all the public has received, and we have not weighed into one single item in eight years on city council oversight, so that's what I want to make really clear," Brown said.
Brown continued, "If we're going to be held accountable as the oversight to the police department, we actually need to be the oversight, not sit here in our chairs and be city council members and say we are when we've actually had zero events ever come to this council."
Though "completely" supportive of the PPD, "with all government, you have a check and a balance system," she added. "We have a check and balance system, and it's called the citizens. They fire us if we don't do our jobs and they hire us again if we do. But in this case we have not, and I want to make sure the public understands I 100% support this council being the advisory for the police department, but we have to start doing it."
Associated costs for implementing the CAB are "anticipated to be negligible and easily absorbed in the police department budget using existing staff," and "keeping the department's current accountability model in place will have no financial impact."
Staff said any budget adjustments will be included in the city's (fiscal year) 2020-21 mid-year budget review or next year's budget, "depending on the pace of implementation of the council's policy direction."
A status update was also given on the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, including recommendations, highlights of the six pillars, and the next implementation steps either being taken or planned by PPD.
The motion passed 4-1; Testa cast the sole dissenting vote and stated she would have supported accepting the 21st Century Policing report on its own.