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Tiburon ready to roll out cop-advisory board; expert, watchdog are dubious

The Tiburon Police Department’s new Citizens Advisory Panel is slated to hold its first meeting this summer, with members providing quarterly feedback on public safety, policing strategies and policies while working to raise public awareness.


But the panel’s structure, its public activities and its limits on both member and broader public participation have raised questions among watchdogs and experts about its coming role in serious examination of accountability and reform versus serving as an image-boosting arm of the department.


“It’s under the Police Department. It’s under the chief. So it is not considered effective,” said Gianina Irlando, who reviewed the draft manual presented to the Tiburon Diversity Inclusion Task Force on May 10. Irlando, who works for Bay Area Rapid Transit’s independent auditor, is president of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. It has stated goals similar to those of the advisory panel: to build bridges between law enforcement and the community and to improve public trust in the police.


For the association, that comes through independent oversight, accountability and transparency to limit barriers in the complaint process, ensure investigations are fair and improve policies and training. It’s currently advising San Rafael, for example, on forming the city’s civilian oversight board after a recent racially charged use-of-force incident there was captured on police body cameras.


Tiburon Police Chief Michelle Jean said she doesn’t think an oversight committee is necessary. In her experience, she said, purely advisory bodies work well to provide guidance, suggestions, feedback on policies and procedures and insight into community concerns and priorities.


“It allows members on the panel to collaborate with the Police Department on topics deemed relevant and important,” she said. “(The panel) is meant to be a working group to assist the chief.”


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