COLUMBIA — The list of candidates for the Citizens Police Review Board was narrowed to 18 people and released Wednesday. Each candidate will be interviewed by the City Council at the end of October.
After reviewing a total of 54 applications over the past two weeks, each council member submitted 15 names to City Clerk Sheela Amin, who then identified the applicants listed most often. Amin said she has e-mailed the candidates chosen for interviews.
The remaining candidates are: Stephen Alexander, Peter Goodman, Kim Gorman, Robert Hibbs, Carroll Highbarger, Barbara Hodges, Veronica Jenkins, Andy Lee, Ellen LoCurto-Martinez, James Martin, John McClure, John Roodhouse, Lowell Schoengarth, Susan Smith, Vincent St. Omer, Steve Weinberg, Barbara Willis and Betty Wilson.
The council will choose eight members for the board, and a ninth will be appointed by the Columbia Human Rights Commission. The board will be responsible for examining cases of alleged police misconduct where the internal affairs unit's decision has been appealed. Citizens and police officers involved will also be able to appeal decisions made by the board to the city manager.
The idea of forming a citizens board to provide some oversight of police is not new in Columbia. In June 2007 Mayor Darwin Hindman formed the Citizen Oversight Committee to research and hash out the details of how such a body would operate. The committee voted unanimously to recommend the creation of a review board in June 2008, and the council unanimously passed the ordinance in July.
One of the key issues in designing the board was deciding who would be eligible to serve. The ordinance creating the board states members will serve without compensation, must be residents of Columbia and registered voters, must not have a "serious" criminal record and must not be employed by the city or be an elected office holder.
The ordinance also states that the board members must reflect the cultural and racial diversity of Columbia.
“This is an incredibly important decision, and we have got to do the process slow enough and careful enough that the candidates are as good as can be,” Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said.
Starting at 8 a.m. Oct. 31, council members will interview the remaining candidates for 15 minutes each. The candidates will briefly introduce themselves, and then the council members will each ask one question, Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said.
Although the council intends to narrow the list of candidates during the initial interviews, it’s possible that there could be a second round of interviews, Thornhill said.
Once the board members are chosen, they will undergo extensive training on police policies and procedures and other relevant topics.
Thornhill and Wade said they expect the board to start reviewing cases in early 2010.