UPDATE: Council announces Citizens Police Review Board members

Tuesday, November 3, 2009 | 11:46 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The City Council announced early Tuesday morning its eight appointments to the Citizens Police Review Board, which will provide independent civilian oversight of the Columbia Police Department.

The new members will be tasked with reviewing certain cases of actual or perceived police misconduct with the goal of increasing accountability and community trust in the police. A ninth member will be appointed by and from the Columbia Human Rights Commission.

The members, selected from an initial pool of 49 applicants, are listed below with information from their applications to the board.

  • Stephen Alexander received four council votes and will serve a two-year term. Alexander is a biological sciences professor at MU.

    Alexander: “The Citizens Police Review Board will be faced with challenging and complex issues and will need to make well-reasoned decisions in an efficient manner. I believe that the management and problem-solving skills developed in my professional life can be applied directly to these issues.”
  • Carroll Highbarger received four council votes and will serve a two-year term. Highbarger is a former deputy police chief with the Columbia Police Department and is an adjunct online criminal justice instructor at Columbia College.

    Highbarger: “My experience … gives me a unique understanding of the importance of trust, fairness and a positive relationship between citizens and the Columbia Police Department.”
  • Ellen LoCurto-Martinez received four council votes and will serve a two-year term. LoCurto-Martinez served on the Citizen Oversight Committee, which researched citizen review boards and recommended the creation of the board for Columbia.

    LoCurto-Martinez: “I believe that someone from the original committee would be a valuable resource for the CRB, especially in its formative years.”
  • James Martin received six council votes and will serve a four-year term. Martin is retired from a career serving in federal and state government.

    Martin: “(I applied) to serve my community and help ensure fair and impartial treatment of all citizens.”
  • John McClure received five council votes and will serve a three-year term. McClure is the coordinator of adult education and literacy for Columbia Public Schools and serves on boards for the Phoenix House and Minority Men’s Network.

    McClure: “We need to not be snarling dogs looking over the Police Department’s shoulder, but at least let them know that we will be fair and just.” (spoken in an interview with the council)
  • Susan Smith received five council votes and will serve a three-year term. Smith is an adjunct professor at Columbia College and a former prosecutor in Indiana.

    Smith: “It’s important that each side understands the other. We need to respect the community and also respect the demands on law enforcement.” (spoken to the council)
  • Steve Weinberg received five council votes and will serve a three-year term. Weinberg is a part-time faculty member at MU and co-founder of the Midwestern Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to the innocent in prison.

    Weinberg: “Effective policing is based on two-way trust. I hope to cement that trust.”
  • Betty Wilson received six council votes and will serve a four-year term. Wilson has been involved in a number of city and state commissions and is a partner in the law firm of Oliver, Walker, Wilson LLC.

    Wilson: “I have wide long term contacts and positive working relationships with diverse segments in the community, various ethnic groups, age groups and gender categories as well as an appreciation for the responsibilities of the police.”

The idea of forming a board to provide some oversight of police has been in the works for a while. In 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 to recommend the creation of a review board in June 2008, and this July the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance establishing the Citizens Police Review Board.

One of the key issues in designing the board was deciding who would be eligible to serve. The ordinance 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 “board members should reflect the cultural and racial diversity of Columbia.” Of the eight people chosen Monday night, there are three women and five men; four white members, three black members and one Latino member; and one resident of the First Ward, two residents of the Second Ward, two residents of the Fourth Ward, two residents of the Fifth Ward and one resident of the Sixth Ward.

According to the ordinance, the board will be responsible for examining cases of alleged police misconduct where the final decision of the police chief has been appealed by either a police officer or citizen involved in the dispute.

If the board’s findings differ from those of the police chief, the chief will have 10 business days to reconsider the original decision and either reaffirm or modify it. The officer and citizen also will be able to appeal decisions made by the board to the city manager.

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