The City of Boulder is continuing its search for a new police monitor, a position that will play a key role in overseeing how the city’s police department handles complaints of officer misconduct. City officials determined three finalists announced in January lacked the skills and experience needed for the job.
The new police monitor will also help revise the 2020 ordinance that created the Police Oversight Panel, an 11-member board of volunteers that reviews investigations into complaints of officer misconduct. The monitor is a liaison between the city and the panel.
“We didn’t feel like we had all of the traits we needed,” Aimee Kane, the city’s equity officer and liaison for the Police Oversight Panel, said of the finalists in an interview with Boulder Reporting Lab. “We wanted to make sure we are being diligent and getting the right person for this job. It’s a hard position to fill.”
The city has received 43 applications for the position, which it had hoped to have filled by now, but it has not made any formal job offers, according to Kane. She said the city is considering changing the job description to help bolster the pool of applicants.
Kane said the city is seeking candidates with a high level of experience conducting internal police investigations, policy analysis, cultural competence, and the ability to support the civilian Police Oversight Panel.
Under city code, Police Oversight Panel members can review investigations into complaints of misconduct only after they have been completed. The police monitor is given more access and authority. This person can monitor investigations as they are happening. This includes watching interviews with officers, witnesses and people who file complaints. The monitor also has “complete and unrestricted access” to all investigative records.
The city’s previous — and first — police monitor resigned in September 2022 to take a job as a special investigator for the Los Angeles Police Department. Flo Finkle, the city’s interim Independent Police Monitor, will continue serving while the city continues its search.
The city’s Police Oversight Panel came under scrutiny from some residents in the weeks leading up to the city council’s Jan. 26 appointment of six new members. The appointment process prompted residents on both sides of the debate over police reform and accountability to file at least five separate formal complaints with the city. The complaints accuse councilmembers, volunteers who helped nominate members to the Police Oversight Panel, and police officers of various city code violations. An independent special counsel was appointed to investigate the complaints.
Meanwhile, the oversight panel has struggled to keep members, in part due to its heavy workload. Former panelists have said the oversight body needs more legal protections to discuss complaints publicly and more sway over whether an officer is disciplined for wrongdoing. Under city code, panel members can make recommendations for punishment, but the city’s police chief has final say.
To help the new panel members with policy reforms, the city has hired, as a contractor, Farah Muscadin, the former director of the Office of Police Oversight in Austin, Texas. (Boulder City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde who took the helm in 2021, was previously Austin’s deputy city manager.) Austin created its oversight office in 2018.
Muscadin resigned from her post in September 2022, citing a desire to spend time with her family, according to news reports. Her resignation came days after the Austin City Council declined to consider an ordinance that would have expanded the powers of Austin’s oversight office, echoing similar conversations playing out now in Boulder.
Calls for reforming Austin’s police oversight office came after the Austin Police Association alleged that members of the Office of Police Oversight violated the terms of its 2018 contact with the union. The complaint prompted an arbitrator in Dec. 2021 to issue a cease and desist barring the oversight office from investigating complaints, among other restrictions.
In a news release, the City of Boulder said Muscadin will work with the panel in “reviewing current and proposed ordinance change recommendations, facilitating discussions and workshops related to possible ordinance changes being proposed to council.” The city also said Muscadin would assess procedures and systems relevant to the civilian oversight process.