The board now in charge with picking the city’s top law enforcement watchdog says it will interview candidates by February and appoint the new head of the Office of the Independent Monitor by March or April.
The candidate was once selected by the mayor, but during the most recent election voters wrested the power away from that office and gave it to the city council and the Citizen Oversight Board, a group that oversees the OIM.
The OIM has been leaderless for more than 10 months after Nick Mitchell left for a job in Los Angeles.
Citizen Oversight Board Chair Julia Richman is glad for the changes the election brought. She said the prior process inevitably led to conflicts of interest, since the mayor also appoints the police chief, sheriff and director of Public Safety — basically every position under the scrutiny of the independent monitor. Mitchell, who led the department from 2012 until early 2021, said a mayor-appointed position wasn’t in line with true independence.
The OIM has been a crucial voice during conflicts between law enforcement and the public. During Mitchell’s tenure as the head of OIM, he released a report on the in-custody death of Michael Marshall, overhauled the police’s use-of-force policy and released a damning investigation into the police’s use of force during the George Floyd protests. The office has still continued its normal functions under interim director Gregg Crittenden.
“I don’t think the Office of the Independent Monitor has ever done the volume of work that they’ve done this past year,” Richman said. “So, you know, I want the community to understand that despite not having the official role filled, the team is very much at work.”
The OIM was created in 2004 by the mayor and city council to investigate the sheriff and police departments and make recommendations based on citizen complaints. The city has also hired a recruitment firm to help the process along and will hold public listening sessions.
Richman said the outreach process has garnered a good turnout with around 40 candidates, although the application window has also been extended to allow for more applicants. The Citizen Oversight Board itself has two openings which the board has struggled to fill.
“The work of the Citizen Oversight Board has increased in intensity and the level of rigor and investment we need has increased,” Richman said. “So having a full board is really important at this time.”