Policing in San Rafael

In recent months, the City of San Rafael has been holding community meetings on the topic of “Policing in San Rafael” following a  2022 police incident that occurred in the Canal neighborhood.  In each meeting, Police Chief Dave Spiller listened directly to the community’s concerns and committed to developing a formal response to the community’s input, which will include some form of police oversight in 2023.  The main themes of the comments have been summarized and categorized into the following five topic areas:


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Click the boxes below to read what we heard from the community:

Previous Community Meetings

Police Chief Dave Spiller, Councilmember Llorens Gulati, and key leaders from the City and the San Rafael Police Department (SRPD) held several hybrid community meetings in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. The meetings have been well attended with around 200 community members participating in recent months. At the meetings participants were able to break into smaller groups in person and over zoom and work with community facilitators to provide their overall feedback on interactions with the SRPD, as well as share what safety and security means to them. Facilitators summarized and shared the group comments and notes on key concerns and themes for SRPD to formally respond to. We will continue holding more community meetings and will update these key themes with more feedback as meetings occur. To be informed of upcoming meetings please sign up here.

Previous meetings were held on:

  • October 24th, 2022, At the Albert J. Boro Community Center at Pickleweed Park from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Spanish with English Translation)
  • November 3rd, 2022, At the Albert J. Boro Community Center at Pickleweed Park from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (English with Spanish translation)
  • November 18, 2022, At San Rafael High School from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
  • December 9th, 2022, At the Albert J. Boro Community Center at Pickleweed Park from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (Vietnamese with English Translation)

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

A: Yes. Anytime a police officer’s conduct is called into question, the City must conduct an administrative investigation, also referred to as an Internal Affairs investigation (“IA”). In order to legally issue any disciplinary action against an officer, the City must first follow a process set by law, known as the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights (POBR). Under POBR, a claim of officer misconduct triggers a police disciplinary process, which begins with an IA investigation. To ensure a fair and impartially performed investigation, the City has hired an independent outside investigator to conduct the administrative investigation in the case related to the July 27th incident in the Canal neighborhood.

Separately, District Attorney Lori Fragoli has announced that her office has initiated its own criminal investigation of the incident. The city is not conducting this investigation; the two investigations are completely separate and unrelated.

A: The first step is for the investigator to compare the officer’s actions to the San Rafael Police Department (SRPD) current policies. The investigator will narrow the scope of the investigation to any potential or alleged misconduct, based on SRPD policy.

The first step in an IA is for the investigator to determine all the written policies related to the alleged misconduct, for example, the San Rafael Police Department (SRPD) Use of Force Policy. The investigator must also designate the scope of the investigation so they can make specific findings regarding whether the officers involved complied with the relevant established policies or not.

The investigator reviews all of the evidence, including all body-worn camera footage, photographs, and police reports. The investigator interviews witnesses (community members and employees) as well as the involved officers. Those interviews are (audio or video) recorded. The officers involved must answer the investigator’s questions or potentially face additional discipline up to and including termination.  Officers under investigation are entitled to have representation (a union representative or a lawyer) present during the interview, as long as the chosen representative is not a witness or subject of the investigation.

A: The investigator will apply the written policies of the SRPD involved in the incident and determine (based on the outcome of the interviews and their analysis of the evidence) if, in fact, the officers violated any SRPD policies.

A: The investigator will deliver his report to the Police Chief, which will include his findings based on the facts and his analysis of the evidence.

The Police Chief will review the report and the investigator’s findings and make the initial determination — on behalf of the City — as to what disciplinary action, if any, should be imposed on the involved officers, including and up to the potential termination of their employment.

A: Non-probationary officers legally have “Skelly” rights, which are due process rights. Before discharging or imposing significant discipline upon a non-probationary officer, the SRPD must provide the officer the opportunity to respond in writing or orally at a “Skelly” hearing, which is an informal meeting before a Skelly officer. After listening to and considering the police officer’s response, the Skelly officer determines if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the charges against the officer are true and support the proposed action. The Skelly officer must make recommendations to the Police Chief, who can make the discipline final.

Non-probationary officers can contest any final disciplinary action at arbitration before a binding arbitrator. The legality and integrity of the IA investigation are tested in the arbitration process. The officer’s attorney or union representative may point to any perceived irregularity in the investigation and disciplinary process to argue that the arbitrator should reverse the discipline that has been issued.

A: The City is required to conduct a thorough, neutral, unbiased investigation. The City’s sole interests are in discovering the truth, conducting a lawful process, and ensuring that any potential disciplinary decisions – including, and up to, termination of any employee – will withstand procedural challenges by the employee, their attorney, and their union. Given the complexity of the process, and the number of interviews with attorneys present for each, the IA investigation can range in length and is out of the City’s direct control. Click here to view the police incident investigation process.

A: The City Attorney, Rob Epstein, selected the independent investigator after reaching out to numerous experts in the field. Mr. Paul Henry brings the experience of 27 years as a Santa Rosa police officer, a role from which he retired as a lieutenant. Mr. Henry has conducted more than 150 internal affairs investigations and reviews of law enforcement officer conduct, including officer-involved shooting cases, use of force investigations, in-custody death cases, and more.

A: Yes. The City is currently exploring all options to assist the process of building community trust. The City has contracted with Francine Tournour, who is associated with the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (“NACOLE”). Ms. Tournour also serves as the Inspector General of Sacramento County. She has extensive experience working on high-profile police use of force cases and working with the community to understand the process and identify ways to rebuild trust the community and law enforcement. NACOLE is a non-profit organization that brings together individuals and agencies working to establish or improve oversight of police officers. You can learn more about  NACOLE here. We will be working with Ms. Tournour to support the City in engaging the community around potential future solutions, including opportunities for possible civilian oversight.

You are invited to stay engaged in the conversation and can do so by adding your email on the City webpage linked above.

A: We invite members of the public to submit public comment at a City Council meeting. There are multiple ways you can make sure your comments are heard and considered by our City Council. You can find more information here. You can also Submit your comments by email to city.clerk@cityofsanrafael.org.

The City will continue to host community meetings, to be notified about these events subscribe by following this link and enter your email on our on our City police incident website.

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