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Calexico police commission

January 23, 2001

"By RICHARD MONTENEGRO

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The Police Advisory Commission here was declawed Tuesday night after an emergency ordinance scaling back the scope of the commission's powers was passed by the City Council.

Recognizing laws governing city personnel and the Police Officers' Bill of Rights, the council passed the amended version of the ordinance outlining what the police commission can and cannot do. The vote was unanimous.

In a companion motion, the council approved the amended bylaws of the police commission.

The need for such an amendment arose out of complaints to the council that police commissioners were attempting to delve into personnel issues within the Police Department as well as other non-specified offenses.

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City Councilman Gilbert Grijalva rhetorically asked: "Am I to understand their role, their primary purpose is to listen to concerns and complaints from the community not to follow police officers around and follow them to work.

"That needs to be made clear to all commissioners," he said. "They are not there to check into personnel matters."

Councilman John Renison said he supports the city's various commissions and he wants to see the police commission work.

"No, they're not supposed to be flashing badges and stopping traffic, or any of the other ridiculous things I've heard," Renison said, adding the commission should do those things described in its roles and responsibilities.

The updated ordinance states the commission shall be a forum for citizens' complaints against the Police Department and its officers, and to provide recommendations to the department as far as improving community relations.

Taken out of the former ordinance established nearly 20 years ago was the commission's participation in reviewing and developing department procedures, policies and practices, and further investigation of complaints by the community against the police. Still, the commission may recommend further investigation to the council, which would be done by an outside agency.

Further, in the updated ordinance the chairman of the commission will no longer be able to sit in on the oral boards of any police officer, reserve officer or the chief of police, nor will he or she be involved in personnel sessions involving police disciplinary actions.

Danny Silva was the only member of the police commission in attendance at Tuesday's meeting. He vehemently opposed the ordinance.

"At no point in our function have we gone into personnel matters. We've done no personal attacks," he said.

Grijalva told Silva that wasn't true as the two became embroiled in a brief shouting match. Grijalva excused himself from further discussion but returned to vote on the issue.

Silva continued, "Our intentions are good intentions. We are part of this community."

He said it is the Police Department and its staff that won't work with the commission, adding the Police Department has undermined the City Council by not working with its appointees.

The ordinance was passed as an emergency item Tuesday to prevent an evidentiary hearing against the Police Department by a member of the community. City Attorney Mike Rood indicated changes in state laws governing police officers could leave the city subject to legal entanglements.

Said Calexico Police Chief Tom Tunson following Tuesday's meeting: "I support the City Council. I support the recommendation of the city attorney. This is in line with policies and procedures of the law.

"We're ready to work together with the police commission for the best of the community," Tunson added.

Staff Writer Richard Montenegro can be reached at 337-3453.

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