Santa Barbara City Council Okays Spending $67K to Hire Police Oversight Expert

Hassan Aden Would Help Create a Civilian Review System

Santa Barbara Police Station | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on December 6 to clarify that the City Council has approved the expenditure to hire Hassan Aden but has not officially hired him yet. Comments and additional information from Tuesday’s council meeting have also been added since this story was first published. 

The Santa Barbara City Council approved the expenditure of $67,000 to hire Hassan Aden, a professional Independent Police Monitor, to provide consulting expertise in “creating and implementing” a new civilian oversight system for the city’s police department. Aden spent 26 years with the police department of Alexandria, Virginia, which he left after attaining the rank of assistant chief. After that, he worked as chief for the Police Department of Greenville, North Carolina.

From 2015 on, Aden has functioned as a contract deputy monitor for the much-troubled Baltimore Police Department as part of a federal consent decree. While there, he focused on accountability measures. He has served similar functions in Chicago, Seattle, and Cleveland. He resigned from his post in Cleveland in late October after the federal judge overseeing that consent decree concluded Cleveland’s efforts at oversight, while substantially improved, still had not achieved substantial compliance.

Councilmember Michael Jordan asked whether Aden’s experience would make him appear to some as too “pro-police.” Assistant City Administrator Barbara Andersen — whom Aden will train to become the city’s de facto in-house independent police monitor — noted that Aden had the trust of the Department of Justice, which had hired him for key oversight roles in multiple cities with troubled and reform-resistant police departments. This, she said, assured her that Aden could do the job.

In response to political pressure generated in the wake of the George Floyd murder, the Santa Barbara City Council created an advisory board to evaluate various models for police oversight commissions. Ultimately, the council opted to significantly expand the function of the existing Fire and Police Commission rather than create a new commission.

The council heard from 25 applicants now vying for one of five seats on that commission this Tuesday. The final decision is scheduled to be made next Tuesday. The newly constituted Fire and Police Commission is slated to meet for the first time late next January. For the first time, it will meet in City Council chambers, and its meetings — also for the first time — will be televised on public access.


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