In a robocall blasted to about 70,000 Anaheim households last weekend, Curt Pringle said that the city was "at a crossroads" and accused Mayor Tom Tait of "pursuing a terrible plan" to create a commission comprised of residents charged with reviewing policies and allegations of misconduct within the Anaheim Police Department.
"I don't believe these civilian oversight boards enhance the ability to protect the citizenry and only create a political layer on top of another political layer," Pringle, a lobbyist who served two terms as Anaheim's mayor from 2002 to 2010, said of his reason for recording the message sponsored by the Anaheim Police Association.
"You have an elected city council who should know what's happening in their city when it comes to police issues," Pringle said. "You don't need activists or politically connected people on a police review board."
Tait said he found Pringle's remarks to be "deeply disappointing."
Tait raised the idea of creating a citizen review board in the wake of two officer-involved shootings last July, which sparked several days of civil unrest. There have been at least 37 police-involved shootings in Anaheim over the past decade, 21 of which were fatal, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
City Manager Bob Wingenroth is in the process of drafting an ordinance outlining the duties of the proposed civilian panel and how its members would be appointed. It's unclear when the proposal will come before the City Council.
"Aside from being untruthful, Mr. Pringle's comments only hurt our effort to bring the city together and heal from the events of this past summer," Tait said. "Transparency is good for any organization and it is essential for building trust, which is the foundation of effective law enforcement and community policing."
The Anaheim Police Association has issued two robocalls expressing its strong opposition to the oversight panel. The union, which represents about 350 Anaheim police officers, spent about $25,000 to record and deliver the latest telephone message.
For now, Anaheim Police Department conducts internal reviews of complaints, while the Orange County District Attorney's Office investigates criminal culpability in police-involved shootings, said Kerry Condon, president of the Anaheim Police Association. Additionally, the Office of Independent Review -- a panel of retired law enforcement officials and attorneys -- conduct annual audits of the police department's actions.
Condon said he believes those measures are sufficient and said that "no good change" can come from a citizen review board.
"Those types of things are usually implemented in police departments that have serious problems like corruption and an inability to control officers," Condon said. "Anaheim does not fall into that category in any way, in my opinion."
About 20 police agencies across California have a civilian oversight committee, according to the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit group working to improve accountability of police departments.
"The benefit is having a police commission is that you have citizens who are not involved in any way in law enforcement to provide another layer of oversight for internal controls," said Richard Tefank, executive director of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, a five-member civilian panel established during the 1920s to oversee the LAPD.
"Internal department reviews are fine, but the District Attorney's Office only determines whether any crimes are committed," Tefank said. "A citizen-based panel can recommend policies to the City Council and then determine whether an officer violated those policies, which is a whole different role