Partner Jon Holtzman recently served as Special Counsel to the Fresno Commission on Police Reform (CPR), leading an RPLG team that provided guidance for the entire Commission. The Commission delivered a final report detailing 73 recommendations to the Fresno City Council.
During the process, Fresnans frequently referred to their relationship with the police department as a “tale of two cities” because of the divergent experiences of its geographically and politically discrete communities. RPLG personnel helped to support the reconciliation process and to provide policy options to the commissioners.
The Fresno Commission for Police Reform was created in June 2020 following the death of George Floyd and the related protests. After the Fresno mayor and members of the City Council appointed 37 community leaders and experts on public safety as members, the Commission conducted extensive community outreach and research to develop recommendations for reform.
Jon was joined by RPLG.Solutions Consultant (and former Fresno City Manager) Bruce Rudd and RPLG Paralegals/Policy Analysts Sofia Cutler and Manik Marasinghe. The RPLG team worked on a broad spectrum of issues relevant to the work of the CPR, including use of force, recruitment, culture, diversity, the oversight process, police budgets, response to calls with a mental or behavioral health component and community-based prevention efforts. Working with the Subcommittee on Police Tactics, Training, Policies, and Philosophy, Jon helped to develop an oversight model to strengthen the Office of Independent Review (OIR) and to create a new Civilian Oversight Board (COB).
See pages 32 – 36 of the Fresno Commission on Police Reform Report and Recommendations for full details.
“Unlike typical blue ribbon committees, the Fresno process was driven by community input. For example, we discovered that few Fresnans were even aware of the existing police oversight bodies,” Jon said. “I learned through this process that police reform is not just about changing the rules. It is also about working toward real buy-in from the community and stakeholders–a true sense of reconciliation. I’m glad RPLG was able to help with this unique process and hope it can be replicated elsewhere.”
The report, now available on the Commission’s website, was accepted by vote of the Fresno City Council on Nov. 19. The Council will ultimately determine which of the report’s 73 specific recommendations to implement.
RPLG has taken on a variety of roles in police reform efforts. The firm has been retained to help craft and defend police reform ballot measures, including the City of Berkeley’s Measure II, which passed with over 80 percent of the vote in the Nov. 2020 election. Additionally, RPLG has been asked to revise use-of-force policies, facilitate blue-ribbon committees, develop oversight models, revise policies and negotiate and defend changes in policies. Learn more about RPLG’s police reform practice group.
RPLG practices throughout California, advising and advocating for public agencies, nonprofit entities, individuals and private entities in need of effective, responsive and creative legal solutions.