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Today's Question: Is the Willie Smith incident reason to enact a citizen review board?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 | 12:54 p.m. CDT; updated 9:57 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Former Missouri basketball player Willie Smith has formally pressed charges against the Columbia Police Department.

According to his attorney, Andrew Popplewell, Smith filed his complaint on March 12. Popplewell said the department told him it would take 30 to 50 days to complete the investigation.

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Smith's complaint stems from an incident early in the morning of March 9.

Police responded to a burglary alarm at Smokin' Chick's BBQ Restaurant. The restaurant is next door to Bella Salon, where Smith cleans each Sunday night.

Smith alleges that police handcuffed him, sprayed him with mace and slammed his head against a police car without first providing him an opportunity to explain himself.

Smith was treated at an emergency room for bruises and an injured nose.

Last June, the Columbia Citizen Oversight Committee voted unanimously to recommend the creation of a citizen review board to oversee how the Police Department deals with complaints.

In late August, the committee finalized its proposal for the review board after months of work on the details.

The committee decided on Feb. 11 to wait until the new police chief was announced to finalize an ordinance establishing the review board.

Kenneth Burton, who was announced as the new chief on Feb. 19, has said he plans to emphasize opening channels of communication with the community.

Does the publicity of Smith's complaint and Burton's emphasis on transparency make the timing right to institute a citizen review board?


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