Today's Question: Defining a Citizens Police Review Board

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 | 4:30 p.m. CDT; updated 6:37 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mayor Darwin Hindman formed the Citizen Oversight Committee in 2007 in response to allegations that the Columbia Police Department was handling complaints filed by blacks differently from those by whites.

After nearly 16 months of discussion, the committee finalized an ordinance that would be proposed to City Council after the incoming police chief looked it over and gave it the green light. The proposed legislation was set to go before the council on Monday night and could have contributed to the creation of a Citizens Police Review Board.

Now there are doubts about the solidity of the ordinance, and the council tabled the issue until July 20, highlighting a number of categories that members said needed to be clarified in the legislative proposal, including the board's potential subpoena power and possible use of an independent investigator to examine complaints. There was concern, too, that the police chief's nonvoting position would destroy the independent nature of the board and intimidate people out of coming forward.

Representatives of the Columbia Police Officers Association had a 10-minute block of time in which to speak. Executive Director Eric Dearmont and Vice President Jill Wieneke highlighted what they called holes in the ordinance. Other issues of concern included the level of training individuals on the board would receive and the need to comply with the national standards to which boards in other cities have adhered.

Do you think the Columbia Police Department should be subjected to external review with regard to how its representatives handle complaints?

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