This addresses the two articles that are copied at the end of this email.
The Richmond Police Commission plays an important role, but that role continues to be misunderstood by many, including even some police commissioners. The Police Commission has only three powers and duties, (1) Review and evaluate the policies, practices and procedures contained in the Richmond Police Department Manual and develop programs and strategies to promote positive police-community relations and make appropriate recommendations to the Chief of Police, (2) Receive, investigate and hear complaints against Richmond Police officers alleging the use of excessive or unnecessary force or racially abusive treatment and submit recommendations to the City Manager and Chief of Police, and (3) Review appeals from the disposition by the Richmond Police Department of complaints against Richmond Police Officers not involving allegations of the use of excessive or unnecessary force or racially abusive treatment and submit recommendations to the City Manager and Chief of Police.
No other issue or item of business is allowable on the Police Commission agenda.
Only the first role, review and evaluate the policies, practices and procedures, is conducted in public. The other two are entirely confidential. Currently, there are no complaints on file and none being investigated.
Those who believe an investigation of the Perez incident by the Police Commission would provide a public forum to hear witnesses and consider evidence are misinformed. There have been significant changes in state law since the Police Commission ordinance was adopted in 1984. The Police Commission is no longer able to make “transparent” investigations. All investigations are closed and confidential. A Police Commission investigation is still a good way to provide recommendations about policy to the Richmond Police Department and to provide confidential opinions about how incidents were handled to the police chief and city manager (the only persons entitled to see the results of an investigation), but in no way do they provide the open forum or the “justice” that some people are seeking.
The decision to not waive the 45-day deadline for filing a complaint in the Perez matter has been both criticized and questioned, but that decision was made by the Police Commission investigative officer pursuant to the existing ordinance (“No complaint shall be accepted, investigated, or heard if it is not filed with the Commission within forty-five days of the alleged misconduct by the Richmond Police Officer unless the complainant establishes to the Investigative Officer's satisfaction that the failure to file the complaint within the required time limit was due to mistake or excusable neglect.”) Some believe the Investigative Officer should have done more to evaluate or document “mistake or excusable neglect” (or lack thereof) or to explain his decision to the Police Commission, but that is not required by the ordinance.
One police commissioner was quoted, “Simpson also failed to notify the commissioners about the complaint, as required,” but the ordinance does not require notification of the Commission until after the Investigative Officer completes a report.
Some believe that the Police Commission should take up a discussion of the investigative officer’s decision, but such a discussion is not within the powers and duties of the commission.
The Contra Costa Times article states, “The commissioners say the city attorney has not only blocked the complaint by the victim's family from being investigated but also failed to notify the group that it had received correspondence from the family and then warned commissioners to not discuss the issue at an upcoming meeting, effectively censoring them.” That is not an accurate statement. The city attorney has done nothing to block the complaint. The complaint was filed late, and the investigative officer declined to investigate it, pursuant to the Police Commission ordinance.
Scott Gillespie, chair of the Police Commission, accurately stated, “The community wants transparency, and we can't give them that." The closest things to transparency that the incident will see are the coroner’s inquest and the ongoing civil suit. There have been three separate investigations of the Pedie Perez incident, (1) the coroner’s inquest, (2) the district attorney’s investigation, and (3) the Richmond Police Department internal investigation by a third party investigator. The coroner’s inquest was conducted in public. The other two remain confidential, but none of the three found any misconduct of the officer involved. The civil suit, files in federal court, will eventually result in discovery and a trial, if it proceeds to completion.
Some Police Commissioners and other critics don’t like the way the process works, but only the City Council can change that by amending the enabling ordinance, and even so are severely constrained by state law. Commissioner Hunziker was quoted, “That's something many police commissioners dispute, saying the city should not be the one to decide which cases the commission, an independent body whose mission is to investigate resident complaints of excessive force and racially abusive treatment, hears.”
In any event, the Police Commission will not be pursuing any further action on the Perez incident. But the City Council will be considering amendment to the Police Commission Ordinance, to be taken up for preliminary consideration in a study session in late October. The City Council will also meet in closed session soon to consider how to fill the now vacant position of Police Commission investigative officer. Because there are no pending complaints, this is not a time-sensitive issue.
Richmond: Police commissioners press city to consider officer-involved case
By Karina Ioffee email@example.com
Posted: 09/18/2015 04:31:00 PM PDT0 Comments
Updated: 09/18/2015 06:29:32 PM PDT
RICHMOND -- Several police commissioners -- residents who are tasked with investigating complaints against law enforcement -- say the city is blocking their efforts to look into an officer-involved shooting that left an unarmed man dead last year and that continues to be a flashpoint in the community.
The commissioners say the city attorney has not only blocked the complaint by the victim's family from being investigated but also failed to notify the group that it had received correspondence from the family and then warned commissioners to not discuss the issue at an upcoming meeting, effectively censoring them.
"The community wants transparency, and we can't give them that," said Scott Gillespie, the chairman of the Richmond Police Commission and a former police officer.
The case in question involves 24-year-old Richard "Pedie" Perez, who was shot and killed outside Uncle Sam's Liquors in Richmond last September. Perez, who was intoxicated but unarmed, refused the officer's commands, tried to leave and was tackled by the officer.
Moments later, the young man was shot three times in the torso and died inside the convenience store. The officer has maintained that he shot Perez after the young man tried to grab his gun, causing him to fear for his life.
The Perez family, which is suing the city, this March also filed a complaint with the police commission, mentioning that their delay was due to not knowing about the group's existence. But the claim was rejected on grounds that it had been filed later than the 45 days required by city ordinance.
In a letter to the Perez family, City Attorney Bruce Goodmiller explained the rationale, saying that "this incident has already been investigated by both the district attorney and by a neutral investigator retained by the city. Additionally, this matter is the subject of active litigation. ... Even if these complaints were timely, and they are not, I am doubtful that a third investigation ... would add any value."
That's something many police commissioners dispute, saying the city should not be the one to decide which cases the commission, an independent body whose mission is to investigate resident complaints of excessive force and racially abusive treatment, hears.
"It's absolutely reprehensible for the city attorney to suggest that investigations into police shootings by the district attorney and police department render independent citizen review unnecessary, especially in a city that established a board specifically for that purpose," wrote Commissioner Felix Hunziker in an editorial on a community news site. "DAs are prosecutors and, not surprisingly, have generally positive relationships with cops. No sane person believes a complaint against a police officer would receive an objective review unless every fragment of doubt was removed."
Goodmiller said the decision to not hear the Perez case was made by the confidential investigator and appeals officer, the only paid position on the commission and appointed by the City Council.
The investigator, Terry Simpson, a retired Pleasant Hill police officer who has since resigned from the commission, gave no notice of his departure to the group. Commissioners only learned Simpson was no longer with the city after they tried to agendize an item directing him to interview the Perez family about their reason for filing the claim late. Simpson also failed to notify the commissioners about the complaint, as required, meaning the group only found out about it after the city issued a denial letter to the Perezes, according to Gillespie.
Reached by phone, Simpson said he resigned because "it was time to retire" but declined to discuss the case, referring all questions to the city attorney. Asked whom he worked for in his role as an independent investigator, Simpson said his employment was with the city attorney's office.
"They're the ones I had a contract with," he said. "It's very clear to me who I worked for."
Not all the commissioners are in agreement. Commissioner Bea Roberson said she supported the confidential investigator's decision to not pursue the case.
"We should let the (federal) court decide ... we can't do anything to interfere with the lawsuit as we have nothing except speculation to go on," she said.
The Richmond Police Commission was created 30 years ago to investigate police misconduct, following litigation against the "Richmond Cowboys," a group of white officers who worked at night and harassed and often shot and killed unarmed African-American residents. But the extent of the commission's influence is questionable, considering it can only issue recommendations to the police chief, which, if denied, could be appealed to the city manager's office and then the City Council.
"The commission is giving people false hope and a false sense of security," said Cochise Potts, who served on the Richmond Police Commission from 2005 to 2007. "That body is supposed to be independent of the city, no different from a grand jury. ... People go to prison based on what the police and the district attorney put together, but where is the other side?"
Yet the biggest challenge to the commission may be just letting people know it exists, Potts said. That's a concern raised by many current commissioners, who lamented recent cuts that have left the group with a bare-bones budget of $23,000 a year, including just several hundred dollars for outreach activities.
Jael Myrick, the City Council's liaison to the police commission, said the Perez family deserved to have its case heard by an independent body.
"Richmond has one of the best police forces in the country, but even the best police force can make mistakes and needs an independent investigation of the process," he said. "We are going to take action on changing this ordinance and give the commission the authority to investigate this."
Contact Karina Ioffee at 510-262-2726 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at Twitter.com/kioffee.
Uninvestigated Police Shooting Brings Richmond Police Commission Protocol into Question
Posted by Sean Pyles 5sc on September 18, 2015
One year after an officer of the Richmond Police Department shot and killed an unarmed Richard “Pedie” Perez in front of Uncle Sam’s Liquors, questions are being raised by members of the Perez family and the Richmond Police Commission about when and why investigations into officer-involved shootings are — or are not — investigated, and who has the authority to make such decisions.
On September 14, 2014, Perez, intoxicated with a blood alcohol level of .274, according to toxicology reports, stumbled into Uncle Sam’s Liquors. The Cutting Boulevard corner store was one Perez had been going to since he was a kid. He was troublesome and was told by the clerk to leave, according to the Richmond Police Department Report. A Richmond Police Department officer happened to be passing by on patrol and came across the confrontation. In a matter of minutes Perez, unarmed, was shot dead by the officer. It was the first officer-involved fatal shooting in Richmond in seven years.
What happened in the minutes leading up to Perez’s death —whether the officer who fired the shots was acting in self-defense or guilty of using excessive force —has been the focus of a heated debate in Richmond for the past year. Perez’s family have argued criminal charges should be filed against the officer involved in the shooting, but the Contra Costa District Attorney ruled the shooting was justified. An internal police department investigation reached the same conclusion. Still, Perez’s family have requested an investigation.
“We don’t think all officers are bad, but we’ve done our own investigation and looked at all the evidence, and we think the officer had no reason to shoot our son that night,” Pedie’s father, Rick Perez, says. “The officer had other options, and we want an indictment.”
Their latest hope came from the Richmond Police Commission, a civilian oversight board that investigates racial and use-of-force incidents. However, the bereaved family’s hope for an independent investigation to determine whether or not excessive force was used in the death of their son is now in limbo - caught up in a bureaucratic blockade, which exposed unclear boundaries between the Police Commission and the City Attorney.
Understanding the role and history of the Richmond Police Commission and its relationship with the Richmond Police Department is necessary to understand exactly what’s happening in the Perez case.
Formed in the mid-1980’s as response to the actions of a group of corrupt RPD officers known as the “Richmond Cowboys,”the Richmond Police Commission was charged with holding the police accountable in incidents involving police violence.
“The community wanted police accountability and oversight,” explains Don Casimere, one of the founding members of the Richmond Police Commission. “The Commission was formed to have an independent body to review police practices and give the public a voice in this, especially in cases of police violence.”
The nine-person commission is appointed by the Mayor to “review and evaluate the policies, practices and procedures” of the Richmond Police Department, and to “promote positive police-community relations.” The Commission is staffed by a confidential investigator and an appeals officer (CIAO), who are appointed by the City Council to conduct investigations through interviews and uncovering evidence.
“The CIAO is responsible for much of the staff work for the Police Commission,” Casimere explains. “The authority on whether to pursue an investigation lies with the Commission itself, and it’s up to the CIAO to do the leg work.”
One of the stipulations for complaints filed with the Police Commission is that they must be received within 45 days of the incident. That’s where the Perez case caught a snag. The family filed a complaint with the Police Commission in March 2015, well past the 45-day limit, and their case was never investigated. The CIAO never notified the Commission that the complaint had been received or that it was later denied.
“When your son is shot and you’re grieving over that, your mind is only on one thing,” says Rick Perez. “Beyond getting a lawyer, the thought doesn’t cross your mind to look for this commission.”
The Commission’s CIAO, Terry Simpson, resigned in August and chose not to comment on his actions while in the position. What is clear, however, is that during Simpson’s final months as investigator he collaborated on the Perez case with Richmond City Attorney Bruce Goodmiller.
It was Goodmiller who responded to the Perez family’s complaint to the Police Commission. In June, the City Attorney stated in a letter to the family, “I am writing in response to your recent Citizens' Complaint filed with the Richmond Police Commission concerning the fatal Officer Involved Shooting on September 14, 2014. Richmond Municipal Code Section 3.54.080(b)(3) provides that no complaint may be accepted, investigated or heard if it is not filed within forty-five (45) days of the incident.”
To Scott Gillespie, Chair of the Richmond Police Commission, the City Attorney was out of bounds in writing this response, which should have been the CIAO’s responsibility.
“The Police Commission ordinance specified that it’s up to the CIAO to make the determination of whether to take up an investigation, or not,”Gillespie says. “[The CIAO] either abdicated his investigative responsibilities to the City Attorney, or the City Attorney took them over. I’m not sure which, but it was inappropriate for the City Attorney to write that on behalf of the Commission.”
There is, however, a saving grace for late complainants like the Perez family. The 45-day rule can be waived if “the complainant establishes to the Investigative Officer's satisfaction that the failure to file the complaint within the required time limit was due to mistake or excusable neglect.”
In his denial, the City Attorney made no reference to this exemption nor shared any reasons why the Perez family’s failure to know about the Commission did not qualify them for it. Instead he applied the 45-day rule without waivers and stated that previous investigations into the case were sufficient. “Additionally, this matter is the subject of active litigation by attorney John Burris. Even if these complaints were timely, and they are not, I am doubtful that a third investigation, in addition to Mr. Burris's efforts, would add any value,” the City Attorney said in his June 3 letter.
Whether not knowing about the existence of the Police Commission is an acceptable mistake or excusable neglect is debatable, but Police Commission founder Casimere believes it qualifies in this case.
To the founding member of the Commission, this is about more than following a technicality. “Somebody is dead,” Casimere says. “Why not why not have an investigation? Why tell a citizen no, we're not going to investigate this, because you didn't turn a complaint in on time?”
“Sometimes it's better to honor the spirit of a thing, the spirit of the ordinance, and do the investigation,”Casimere says. “If you are a few days late, or a few weeks late, or even months late, if they have a good reason, if they didn't know about the Commission, they should err on the side of investigating the complaint.”
Without a CIAO, the Perez complaint will go uninvestigated. It’s up to the Richmond City Council to hire a new one and determine the future direction of the Richmond Police Commission.
“Now it’s a question of what the City Council wants to do with the Commission,” says Casimere. If they feel no value in this Police Commission, then it should be disbanded and shut down. If they feel there is some value in it, then they need to find a budget for this office and provide adequate staffing to support it to do its job.”