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Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: Joyce Hicks, SF Office of Citizen Complaints

David Onek and Joyce Hicks
David Onek and Joyce Hicks

Joyce Hicks, Executive Director of the San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC), discusses San Francisco’s strong police oversight model, the OCC’s innovative mediation program, working with police unions, the investigative and auditor models of police oversight, and more. 

Joyce Hicks Interview Highlights

Hicks on the Office of Citizen Complaints’ Innovative Mediation Program:

"The OCC is very proud of its mediation program. Our mediation program is voluntary. That means that both the police officer complained of and the complainant have to agree to mediate. In San Francisco over 90% of the eligible officers who are contacted about mediation agree to participate in mediation, and 55% of complainants who are contacted about mediation agree to participate in the mediation. We have the highest per capita officer participation rate in our mediation program in the nation. We have skilled mediators who conduct these mediations.  They’re volunteer professional mediators who help the parties to have a conversation. The conversation isn’t always about an apology but it is about each, both the officer and the complainant, having an opportunity to explain his or her position."

Hicks on Comparing the San Francisco and Oakland Police Oversight Models:

"Oakland’s model of police oversight is different than San Francisco’s in many different ways.  First of all, the San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints is part of the San Francisco city charter, which means that it cannot be disbanded by legislative act, it can only be disbanded by an act of the voters. And the San Francisco city charter provides for minimum staffing at the OCC, one investigator for every 150 police officers. With current police staffing levels that would leave me with a staff of about 15. In fact, I have a staff of 35. In Oakland, there is a staff of seven. Oakland’s citizens police review board is established by ordinance, so at any time by an act of the Oakland City Council it could be disbanded. In San Francisco, the Police Commission oversees the Police Department and the OCC, so there is in fact a neutral arbitrator to help them deal with issues that might arise between the department and the OCC.  There is no such oversight agency in Oakland. Oakland does have a citizen’s police review board, but they don’t oversee the police department."

Hicks on the Importance of Inclusion in Police Oversight:

"Inclusion is extremely important for a civilian oversight agency. To operate on an island and not have regular interaction with police administration really degrades the work that is done by a civilian oversight agency. To be a valuable entity you need to have regular contact with the department because you’re there to support the department. You’re there to provide investigations on misconduct. You’re there to provide policy recommendations to the department to enhance the department."


The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The Podcast gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

Podcast host David Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission.

You can find more information on the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast and listen to all past episodes on the Podcast web site.

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