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City Adds Forums For Police Chief Search But Critics Not Satisfied

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 6.43.04 PMA San Diego Police Department vehicle, December 11, 2010.

By City News Service, Tarryn Mento
Logo for K P B S San Diego


City of San Diego officials released Wednesday a revised schedule of public meetings designed to get input on its national search to replace retiring Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman. The change comes after community and legal groups last week criticized the city’s initial plan because they said it was not inclusive enough and lacked transparency.

The city’s revised community forum schedule includes two additional meetings in City Heights and San Ysidro, as the groups called for.

“The police chief serves all of San Diego so we want everyone to have a chance to participate in the selection process,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement. “I am encouraging San Diegans to attend these community forums so the public’s voice is heard.”

However, the city did not reverse its plans to use a confidential panel to conduct candidate interviews, which the organizations also opposed.

Sean Elo of the City Height-based Mid City Community Advocacy Network, a coalition member, said adding forums is a step in the right direction but the unidentified panel is not.

“We actually have to do everything we can to build community-police trust and relationships and a secret panel is not the way to do that,” said Elo, an associate director for the organization with a focus on the nonprofit’s campaign and policy work.

Elo said Mid City CAN will continue to push for a public panel that includes community members, youths and chairs of specific city commissions. He said the group’s youth council members proposed the panel make-up after reviewing community-led police chief hiring procedures in other cities, including Seattle and Phoenix.

The coalition of groups includes American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Alliance San Diego, CAST, San Diego LGBT Community Center, Center for Policy Initiatives, Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association, San Diego La Raza Bar Association and San Diego Organizing Project.

City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, whose district includes City Heights, said in statement Wednesday she also supports a public interview process.

“While I am happy to see more community forums are being planned, the Police Chief is the top law enforcement officer in the City of San Diego and our residents have the right to know who the candidates and decision makers are in every step of the process,” the first-term councilwoman said in a news release.

City of San Diego Spokeswoman Katie Keach said the city reviewed the police chief recruitment process in nine other cities to inform its plans for a confidential selection panel.

“The City is following industry best practices to ensure confidentiality for the candidates and the members who will serve on the selection panel,” Keach said in an email. “This is done to make sure that candidates themselves do not lobby the panel members and that the privacy of panel members is respected.”

Keach also pointed to a Wednesday memo from Chief Operating Officer Scott Chadwick notifying council of the revised forum schedule that said, “we can confirm that the input and recommendations of community stakeholders will advise the final candidate selection.”

An online survey is scheduled to launch next month online.

City officials said they plan to hire an executive recruiting firm next month. They envision conducting interviews in December and January, and hope that Faulconer can make a selection by the end of January.

The City Council would vote on confirmation in February, according to the schedule.

–Sept. 23, Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, 404 Euclid Ave., 1 p.m.

–Sept. 26, Mira Mesa Senior Center, 8460 Mira Mesa Blvd., 6 p.m.

–Sept. 28, San Diego LGBT Center, 3909 Centre St., 6 p.m.

–Oct. 4, City Heights Recreation Center, 4380 Landis St., 6 p.m.

–Oct. 5, Standley Recreation Center, 3585 Governor Dr., 6 p.m.

–Oct. 10, Col. Irving Salomon San Ysidro Community Activity Center, 179 Diza Rd., 6 p.m.

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