SANTA MONICA—Santa Monica City Manager Rod Gould, announced that there were indeed appearances of a biased approach in the investigation of the case involving Oscar de la Torre, a member of the school board. The investigation began when in March of 2010, a video was released to the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) of two 17-year-old boys in a physical altercation. De la Torre was also pictured in the video, and was suspected by the SMPD of not putting an end to the fight in a more timely manner.
Once the investigation was underway, some individuals, including De la Torre, began to suspect that the investigation was being handled in a biased manner. Once this issue had become known, the Office of Independent Review Group (OIR) was asked to make a thorough review of the investigation. In a statement made to the public on Tuesday, February 22, City Manager Rod Gould stated, “Although the OIR attorneys point out that there is no evidence to suggest any ill motives behind the employment of these techniques, nonetheless as the reaction to the OIR report shows, their use has the potential to create the appearance of bias and, thus, put the effectiveness of the Police investigations and public confidence in them at risk.”
“The OIR attorneys also believed that not enough follow up with witnesses was done and that greater efforts should have been made to obtain one piece of potential evidence,” said Gould.
In response to the report made on this case, Gould and Santa Monica Police Chief, Tim Jackman, have agreed to implement seven recommendations made by the OIR with the intent of improving the techniques of the SMPD’s investigations. The recommendations consist ofdeveloping a detective’s manual and training the department’s investigators to comply with its precepts and techniques; focusing additional training on improving techniques for interviewing witnesses; establishing a standard report format, even for unusual cases and provide training on it; developing a report-writing manual and reemphasizing report-writing training; considering witness bias and documenting it in reports; providing guidance to investigators to be cautious in providing counseling and advice when conducting interviews of minors and parents; and, finally, implementing a more robust review process.
In a statement to Canyon News, Oscar de la Torre said, “The OIR report confirms that bias and malicious intent fueled a sham investigation against me. My hope is that the SM City Council and City Manager hold those responsible accountable. An abuse of power that threatens the freedom of one American must be responded to.”
In a press release, Rod Gould took full responsibility of all actions made by the city staff, then concluded his speech by saying, “We can best assure that our police department remains second to none and that this situation will not reoccur. Chief Jackman and I make this commitment. Members of the Council, members of the community, and Mr. de la Torre, you have my word on it.”