Citizen Oversight Committee to wait for new chief to finalize review board ordinance

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | 10:13 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Citizen Oversight Committee began outlining details of a proposed citizen review board Wednesday evening, but decided not to finalize an establishing ordinance until a new Columbia police chief is named.

The committee decided to wait to allow for the yet-to-be named chief to give input on the board's makeup. The board's goal is to promote trust between the public and the police department, and serve as an independent body to review citizens' complaints.

Under the current proposal, the review board would only inspect Professional Standard Unit investigations that citizens appeal after both the unit and the police chief have investigated the complaint.

The board would then decide on whether the internal investigation unit's decision is correct or if it needs to sent back for further investigation; the process would continue through the city manager's office to decide if any disciplinary action is needed.

Additionally, the committee decided police files submitted to the board would not be open to the public after Lt. John White expressed concerns that officer's names might be associated with the complaints before a full review was completed.

But committee member Diane Booth said that while she agreed the names of officers shouldn't be released, "officers are public servants and are employed by the city so you can't always wear masks."

Booth said she hoped the board could help give residents a better understanding of how the police department works and how officers do their jobs.

Mayor Darwin Hindman established the Citizen Oversight Committee in June 2007 to help the City Council decide whether to establish a citizen review board. Members of the review board will be appointed by the City Council.

The next meeting will be at 5 p.m. April 1 in the Daniel Boone City Building.

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