City to Hire Police Oversight Auditor

City to Hire Police Oversight Auditor

At its Nov. 1 meeting, the City Council voted, 4-1, in favor of hiring a full-time Police Auditor/Advisor (PAA) to handle oversight of the Alameda Police Department. Vice Mayor Malia Vella was the lone dissenting vote.

The PAA will also work to ensure the police department achieves and maintains accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). The CALEA is a credentialing authority whose primary mission is to accredit public safety agencies, namely law enforcement agencies.

According to the staff report, CALEA accreditation is a two to three-year process. In order to achieve accreditation, agencies must demonstrate their ability to meet professional standards that include internal accountability systems, policy development, informed decision making, preparedness in natural/human made critical incidents, legitimate crime fighting efforts, community relationship building, and independent reviews by subject matter experts.

The PAA will be a full-time position independent of the police department. They will report to the City Attorney, not the City Manager like the Police Chief. They will offer timely recommendations to the Police Chief on how to implement best practices to the department.

The council heard six different police oversight options. City staff recommended the option the City Council approved. Other options included a police commission appointed by City Council, an advisory commission made up of volunteers, or having the Chief of Police retain oversight power.

City Staff and Alameda Chief of Police Nishant Joshi preferred the PAA and CALEA accreditation option.

“The auditor seems to be a good fit because this is a full-time position where the police department can receive timely recommendations on best practices, and I think it’s a way to install accountability that the community is looking for,” said Joshi.

About two dozen community members spoke at the meeting. Opinions were mixed with some supporting the hiring of a PAA and others wanting to have community members provide police oversight.

“As a council you need to follow through on a commitment you made to the community in March 2021,” said resident Savanna Cheer to the Council. “The five of you unanimously agreed to advance the recommendations from the steering committee. You agreed to advance that group’s recommendation on oversight of the police department. That recommendation was explicit. Embark on a police oversight effort that is independent, inclusive and does not include the police.”

However, Councilmember Trish Herrera Spencer was skeptical most Alameda residents want a community-based police oversight committee.

“As much as I respect members of the community who volunteered in the steering committee, to me, that is one part of our community, it is not representative of our community at large,” said Herrera Spencer.

Vella voted against hiring the new position because she thought the city could use resources more efficiently.

“I feel like this is a fairly large investment into a position and I don’t know how much benefit we’re going to get out of it,” said Vella. “I rather see investment in proactive services. We have funded the CARE Team. I would like to see more investment in that line.”

The city will begin its search for the PAA position on Jan. 1, 2023, with the hope of hiring the position in June. Funds for new position is already included in the fiscal year budget. Once the position is hired, staff will return to City Council for direction on the work plan.