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City Council Unanimously Adopts Civilian Oversight Ordinance in Historic Vote

Authored on
October 12, 2022

The City Council took an historic first step to create a civilian oversight system on Tuesday with a unanimous vote to adopt an ordinance assigning additional oversight duties and authorities to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.  

Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said that civilian oversight is fundamentally about increasing transparency and growing trust, and she acknowledged the research, input, collaboration, and commitment from all the stakeholders involved in the process.  

“We are creating, with the passage of this ordinance, a framework,” Councilwoman Harmon said. “It is the single most significant step toward meaningful civilian oversight in our City’s history. That is a big, big deal.” 

Councilwoman Alejandra Gutierrez acknowledged that there is still work to do in order to continue building trust and strengthen community, which is why she helped bring forward the initial proposal that ultimately led to the night’s vote. She said that since she has been on the Council she has advocated for better access to law enforcement in underserved areas and that she supported the opportunity for Commissioners to join police in a ride-along in order to have a better understanding of the job when conducting their oversight duties. 

“I think for any profession that’s going to be having an oversight committee looking after them or judging them, I think it’s out of respect you put yourself in these law enforcement shoes,” she said.  

Santa Barbara Police Chief Kelly Gordon said her department looks forward to working with and supporting the new commission and coordinating with the City Administrator’s Office in meeting the community and Commission’s expectations.  

“We are committed to ensuring the safety and vibrancy of this beautiful City and strengthening transparency and accountability among all of our unique and diverse community members,” Chief Gordon said.  

Passage of the ordinance expands the responsibilities of the Fire and Police Commission. Santa Barbara citizens are encouraged to apply to become a part of the five-member Commission during a special recruitment. The application deadline is 5 p.m., on November 10, 2022. 

The Commission is tasked with providing transparent oversight and increased civilian input regarding departmental policies, practices and procedures, while strengthening the relationship between the Fire Department, Police Department and the community. These added responsibilities are expected to enhance the health, safety, and general welfare of the community and City officers.  

To encourage an inclusive and diverse application experience, the City Council will prioritize the appointments of Commissioners who promote diversity, fairness, and equity among the Commission’s members and will also take into consideration a member’s personal or professional experience, including relevant lived experience, among other considerations.  

The application period will open on Thursday, October 13 and can be accessed here