Changes made to review board ordinance in advance of council meeting

Sunday, July 19, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Since the plan for a Citizens Police Review Board was tabled at a special City Council meeting in June, city officials have been working to change the language of the review board ordinance to address concerns raised at the meeting. On Friday, they released the revised ordinance, which the council will discuss and possibly vote on Monday night.

"The council at the meeting had a number of items that they wanted to take a look at," Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said. "A staff report addressed each of them, and I think this is a proposal that is ready to come to a vote."

A busy night for the council

The Columbia City Council will have a lot on its plate when it meets Monday night. Along with a possible vote on the revised Citizen Police Review Board ordinance, it is slated to decide several other matters.

  •  Tax-increment financing

Applications from the owners of The Tiger Hotel and Trittenbach Development for tax-increment financing will be up for review and public hearings.

The Tiger Hotel owners are seeking $1.7 million in TIF assistance to convert the building to a “boutique hotel.” Meanwhile, Nathan and Jonathan Odle of Trittenbach are seeking $3.3 million in TIF aid for a $17 redevelopment of property at Tenth and Locust streets. They hope to build a five- to eight-story building that would include a grocery store, office space and 58 residential apartments.

  •  Waste-water treatment plant

The council will hold a public hearing on plans to proceed with a $64.4 million expansion of the waste-water treatment plant. The project is part of a package of projects approved by voters as part of a bond issue in April 2008. The plan includes $4.6 million in bid alternatives for which the city is seeking federal stimulus money.

  • Roots 'n' Blues 'n' BBQ Festival

The council will vote on plans for the upcoming festival.

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Concerns brought up at the June 8 council meeting included the training members of the review board would receive, the timetable for filing complaints, qualifications for board members and subpoena power for the board.

The amended ordinance was intended to address those concerns and implement many of the suggestions made by the police and the public.

Wade and Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said they support the revised ordinance.

Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said he supports the idea of a review board in general, but not in its previous form. He said he could not comment on the changes to the ordinance as he had not yet reviewed them in depth. Representatives from the Columbia Police Department and the Columbia Police Officers' Association could not be reached for comment.

The amended ordinance does not grant the review board subpoena power, but the board would be able to request that the council amend the ordinance after it is passed if it thinks subpoena power is needed. Subpoena power can be used to persuade reluctant witnesses to appear in front of the board and could be enforced through the courts, according to notes filed with the amended ordinance. The document also states that the Citizen Oversight Committee voted subpoena power down because some members feared the power could be abused.

All meetings and records relating to the board will be open to the public, except those involving an undercover officer, the amended ordinance states. Meetings regarding employee discipline and personnel records are currently closed. "This provides employees with confidentiality but has not fostered public trust in the police internal affairs process," the document states. "The proposed ordinance would sacrifice police officer privacy in order to promote public trust in the process and in the police department."

Other major changes include:

  • Adoption of the National Associated for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) Code of Ethics and training recommendations.
  • Establishment of a one-year limitation period for filing complaints. Complaints can be filed with the City Clerk as well as the Police Department.
  • Extension of the time for filing appeals from 14 to 21 days.
  • Requirement for the chief of police or a designee to attend board meetings when requested by the board.

The amendments will not increase the annual cost of the board, which is estimated at $87,177.

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