STORY BY CEDRIC CHAN, PHOTO BY GIL RUBINSTEIN
As a long-term solution for community oversight of the Police Department, Mountain View may implement a “Public Safety Advisory Board” (PSAB), following a City staff recommendation at tonight’s Ad-Hoc Subcommittee meeting on Race, Equity and Inclusion (REI).
The PSAB would be tasked with hosting public forums, reviewing police data and making recommendations about police relations to the police chief and City Council; however, it would act “solely in an advisory capacity,” meaning that it’d ultimately be up to the City Council to vote in any measures that it recommended.
The Council would appoint up to seven members and “should strive to appoint members who bring diverse community representation.”
This board follows a “Review Boards and Commissions” model which has generally been used in other communities when “community-police relations are strained but not broken,” according to the staff report.
“We don’t have a significant amount of tension between MVPD and community members that suggests there’s a high level of community distrust,” City Principal Analyst Melvin Gaines said. “We do have a number of community members who have had negative interactions with police, and these are all valid concerns, but the recommendation is due to our belief that this better serves the community.”
The decision was made based on crime statistics, use of force data and community feedback, according to Gaines. He added that the relatively low rates of crime, police complaints and use of force did not indicate the need for a more rigorous model of police oversight, such as external auditing or investigative agencies.
During public comment, however, community members expressed frustration with the recommendation.
“It’s disappointing to hear that after all of these months of talking, the City is recommending another forum,” Trini Inouye, a member of the Mountain View Coalition for Police Reform and Accountability (MVCPRA), said. “This conversation that we’re having is not just about trust — it’s about right and wrong.”
Other MVCPRA members advocated for more concrete police reform, primarily the removal of student resource officers (SROs) from Mountain View campuses and city-level support for the Santa Clara Mobile Response Team, which seeks to reroute emergency mental health calls to medical professionals rather than local police departments.
Multiple community members also criticized the PSAB’s lack of “real” authority.
“I think the recommendation is great, but a body that has oversight needs to have some authority and some more teeth in order to get buy-in from the members and trust from the community,” resident Alexander Brown said.
Mayor Margeret Abe-Koga responded by saying that she did in fact take commission recommendations seriously, having served on two herself. Still, she maintained that it is ultimately the City Council’s job to make policy decisions.
Multiple REI subcommittee members expressed their support for the staff recommendation as a good fit for the city’s needs. Because the REI subcommittee is ad-hoc, many members viewed the PSAB as a way to continue police reform work after the subcommittee closes.
“It will take some time; it’s not all going to be resolved at one time,” Council Member Lucas Ramirez. “But I think having a sustained community body is a great start.”
“We’re not Minneapolis and we’re not Atlanta,” Abe-Koga said. “I’ve heard from a lot of people and frankly, it’s mostly positive. But of course, there’s always room for improvement.”
A more complete staff report, including information from other community forum sessions, will be presented to the full Council on Tuesday, December 1.
Sunday, November 10: This story was updated to correct the acronym for Mountain View Coalition for Police Reform and Accountability from “MVCFRA” to “MVCPRA.”