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Police add layer of transparency

* This column was published in today’s edition of the Anaheim Bulletin

By Bill Rams
Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 1.23.16 PM

The police department took yet another step forward this month in its effort to become a model of transparency and community engagement.

The city’s new pilot Public Safety Board adds civilian review to police budgeting, staffing and to the way the department handles incidents such as officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths and the use of force.

“Our work is never done and the stronger our partnerships with the community the more success we’ll have in maintaining trust and enhancing the city’s reputation as an outstanding place to live, work and visit,” police Chief Raul Quezada said.

The formation of the board is the latest in a series of new police tools focused on transparency and engagement.

The department continues to test on-body video cameras, which record interactions between officers and the public. Already, officers wear audio recorders. The recorders help protect officers and community members, particularly if allegations of misconduct arise.

“It makes sense for us to have the best possible records of our interactions with the community,” Quezada said.

Quezada already meets monthly with his Police Chief’s Advisory Board and the recently formed Neighborhood Advisory Council, which was designed to improve communication between the department and neighborhoods.

The nine-member Public Safety Board will be composed of community members from every area of the city, and will work with the police department’s external auditor, the Los Angeles Office of Independent Review. The OIR brings decades of law enforcement oversight expertise.

The Office of Independent Review has helped improve policies and procedures in areas ranging from use of force to dealing with the homeless for several California police departments.

Working with OIR, the board will make policy recommendations to Quezada and the city manager. The board and OIR also will make public reports that will delve into the department’s strengths and weaknesses, number of complaints, response times and other matters of public interest.

“We remain committed to serving all segments of our community with professionalism, understanding and compassion,” Quezada said. “Our success requires the trust and partnership of the entire community, and I am certain we will continue to earn both.”