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(Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune. Pastor Russell Bowman, center, leads the crowd in a prayer at the scene where a black man was shot by El Cajon police earlier.

(Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune. Pastor Russell Bowman, center, leads the crowd in a prayer at the scene where a black man was shot by El Cajon police earlier.

By Dana Littlefield Contact Reporter, San Diego Union Tribune

Armand King has a lot on his plate these days.

The 35-year-old San Diego man works, takes classes at a Mesa college and helps run a nonprofit for at-risk youth. He wasn’t necessarily looking to take on another commitment this year.

But when the opportunity arose to participate in the city’s newly revived Citizens Advisory Board on Police/Community Relations, King applied. He said he wanted to speak up for members of the community who feel targeted or otherwise treated unfairly by police.

“I’m the voice of the voiceless,” King said last week. “That young African-American kid who’s out there… he’ll never go to these groups and speak his mind.”

City officials have said the new board will focus on the idea that policing in San Diego is a shared responsibility between police and residents. Its role will be different from that of the existing Community Review Board on Police Practices, which evaluates complaints from residents and reviews officer-involved shootings.

King, a black man who grew up in Skyline and Spring Valley, is one of a dozen city and county residents appointed to the new board in late February.

He remembers as a teenager being stopped and questioned, and sometimes searched by police officers in southeastern San Diego, when he hadn’t broken the law.

"These are issues that hit close to home to me,” he said.

The full advisory board will have 15 volunteer members, each of whom will serve two-year terms. The group will begin meeting after the final three appointments are confirmed in the next few months.

Council President Myrtle Cole, who pushed for the advisory board to be revived, said last month that the new group would likely review existing police policies and programs, and recommend others designed to make law enforcement more sensitive, effective and responsive to the needs of all residents.

“Building and maintaining community trust is the cornerstone of our successful policy,” Cole said at a Feb. 27 council meeting. “This board will help reinforce trust in our police department.”

Both Cole and Mayor Kevin Faulconer have acknowledged that the San Diego Police Department has a long history of community outreach, including attending hundreds of neighborhood events each year and inviting the public to take part in officer training programs.

Still, many residents say there is tension between police and the communities they serve. And their complaints echo what many across the country have said for decades: Police disproportionately target and harass minorities.

An independent analysis of traffic stop data from 2014 and 2015 showed some evidence of racial bias. Although race and ethnicity aren’t significant factors in determining who police pull over, the report concluded, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be searched and questioned in the field after being stopped.

Brian Marvel, president of the labor union representing San Diego police, has also been appointed to the new board. He said he’ll be able to provide “practical insight” as to whether the group’s ideas can actually function within the department, given the city’s budget and staffing limitations and other challenges.

“I think it will be an interesting conversation,” Marvel said, adding that he is optimistic about the process.

King commended city officials, the council president in particular, for being open to discussing these difficult issues. But he said he hopes the group’s work will yield more than just talk.

“I’m hoping our suggestions are actually acted upon,” he said. “I don’t want it to be just a board for the sake of having an advisory board.”

Other advisory board members include:

  • Racheal Allen of Pacific Beach, a board member of the Pacific Beach Town Council
  • Dr. Cynthia Chasan of La Jolla, who serves as Neighborhood Watch Coordinator for La Jolla.
  • James Halliday of Bankers Hill, an entrepreneur and marketing strategist, and a fellow in the RISE San Diego Urban Leadership program.
  • Robert Ilko of Scripps Ranch, a former San Diego police officer and current president of the Scripps Ranch Civil Association.
  • Joe LaCava of La Jolla, a member of the SDPD Northern Division Captain’s Advisory Board.
  • Deborah McKissack of Memorial, a retired healthcare professional who had leadership roles at a variety of healthcare institutions.
  • Alex Pelayo of Chula Vista, a deputy probation officer who has worked with the county’s Youthful Offender Unit and adult Drug Court.
  • Jay Bowser of Chula Vista, owner of a small printing company who co-founded the community group Paving Great Futures with King in 2013.
  • Brian Pollard of Valencia Park, a human resources expert and former director of economic development for the NAACP of San Diego.
  • Norma Sandoval of Encanto, principal at San Miguel Elementary in Lemon Grove who has worked with the San Diego Organizing Project.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story used the old name of an existing board that evaluates complaints from residents and reviews officer-involved shootings. It is the Community Review Board on Police Practices. The story has been updated with the correct name.

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