Details nailed down for civilian review board

Friday, August 8, 2008 | 12:16 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA - "It's time to get down to the meat and potatoes of this thing," said Rex Campbell, co-chairman of the Citizen Oversight Committee.

It took every minute of three hours to finish those meat and potatoes at Thursday night's committee meeting.

The committee met to discuss a proposed draft detailing what the citizen review board for the Columbia Police Department will look like. The finished draft is scheduled to be presented to City Council on Aug. 21.

A four-person subcommittee was charged with coming up with the draft.

After about a month of discussion, the subcommittee hadn't reached a consensus on certain items in the draft.

The decision was made to leave all of the controversial items in the draft and bring it to the full 13-member committee for discussion and amendments.

Among Thursday night's hot-button issues were whether the review board should be granted subpoena power in its investigation process and how much money the committee should recommend City Council allocate to fund the board.

Nine of the 12 members present voted to strike the subpoena power clause.

An amendment was passed to add a section to the draft titled "Implementation." The committee massaged the wording to read, "The Council shall provide funding for adequate staff and funding for this program."

Committee member Diane Booth voiced the urgency of prompt decision-making, so the City Council can factor the review board into its 2009 budget,

"Some kind of allowance or recommendation has to go into the budgeting process now if (the review board) is going to have a chance," Booth said.

Addae Ahmad, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Boone County, was the only civilian from Columbia there to observe the discussion. Lt. John White of the Columbia Police Department's professional standards unit was also there to observe.

"I was impressed by how some committee members made a conscious effort to flush out and nail down particular issues," Ahmad said, "because it shows that they want to get this thing right."

The report with the revisions will be sent out within the next couple days to all committee members, said member Chris Egbert. The committee will meet again on Thursday to review the final report.

Although discussion dragged on enough to prompt Wynna Faye Elbert to slap Jeff Milyo's leg mid-sentence, the well-diversified committee was able to reach some kind of accord around 10 p.m.

It was stated again and again - particularly by Egbert - that the particulars, the "how" of the board, will ultimately be decided by the City Council.

After the meeting, Campbell said he expected the oversight committee's work to be finished in about a month.

"I think tonight went fine," Campbell said, "and there may be some minority reports filed after Aug. 21, but I feel the whole thing will be finished by Sept. 15 at the latest."


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