COLUMBIA — The City Council unanimously passed an ordinance establishing a Citizens Police Review Board on Monday night with only one additional amendment.
The vote comes after more than two years of debate and discussion about the Police Department's complaint review process and means a group of citizens will now have a say in the outcome of some complaint cases.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe suggested an amendment Monday night that changed the wording of the review board's purpose statement from "fair and objective" to "external and independent." Hoppe wanted the change because it "quantifies what this is," she said.
Three proposed amendments, suggested by Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, were either not seconded or were voted down. The proposals included requiring the board to report suggested changes to police policy and procedure to the council before reporting to the Police Department, and instituting a sunset provision after the board members' first term ends in five years.
Mayor Darwin Hindman opened the floor for comments from people who didn’t speak at the previous review board meeting on June 8 and those who wanted to address a specific amendment. Four people spoke in favor of the board, commending the council and the Citizen Oversight Committee for hard work in creating the ordinance and suggesting changes on which the council did not follow up. No one spoke against the formation of a review board Monday night, although citizens have in previous meetings.
The Citizens Police Review Board “will consist of eight members appointed by the City Council and a member of the commission on human rights appointed by the City Council,” according to the bill.
The board can hear appeals about police misconduct after a citizen has filed a complaint with the Police Department and an investigation through the Professional Standards Unit has occurred. The citizen and the police officer involved can also appeal a decision made by the review board to the city manager.
Several community groups, including the Minority Men's Network and the American Civil Liberties Union, have spoke in favor of the review board. The Columbia Police Officers' Association has also supported the review board, although it previously expressed concerns about the way the ordinance was written.
The issue of forming a Citizens Police Review Board has come up multiple times over the past few years. David Tyson Smith proposed a citizen review board at a September 2006 City Council meeting, and in June 2007 Hindman formed the Citizen Oversight Committee to research and discuss possibilities for the details of the ordinance. The committee voted unanimously to recommend the creation of a review board in June 2008.
Initial legislation for the review board was announced June 1. The issue was tabled after a public hearing June 8.
Revisions to the original legislation included changing the filing window from 14 to 21 days, allowing police presence on the board to be requested instead of mandated and requiring all board meetings and records to be open to the public.