Columbia citizens police review board waits on first case

Friday, February 12, 2010 | 7:22 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Citizens Police Review Board has yet to receive its first case, and some members are concerned the delay is because the public doesn’t understand the board’s role.

The board met on Wednesday for training, and members also discussed how to improve the board's public perception.

Chairwoman Ellen LoCurto-Martinez said she hopes there haven’t been any cases presented yet because citizens haven’t had any complaints against the Columbia Police Department. But other members are worried that cases haven’t been filed because citizens don’t understand the process.

At the meeting, board member John McClure said he had received a phone call at home from a citizen asking to have a case reviewed. McClure explained to the caller that the board’s role starts after a complaint has already been filed with the Police Department.

Members discussed holding presentations for the public and local students about how the review process works.

“We need to make ourselves available,” board member Stephen Alexander said. “If people don’t understand how we work, they won’t come.”

The board is also recruiting volunteer complainant advocates to help assist with the filing process.

Betty Wilson, another board member, said she was concerned the public believes the board is working too closely with the Police Department. The board has been training with members of the department while it waits for a case.

“From what comments I’ve heard from the public, they only understand the police side of our training,” Wilson said. “From the public’s perception, we need to show some balance.”

So far, most of the training has been provided by the Police Department.

“We have to hear about the police side because that’s what we’ll be judging,” Alexander said.

Members have accompanied police officers on duty to see how patrol works and observe officers’ responses to situations that occurred.

Board members also visited a new police training facility to try out the firearms simulator. The interactive system simulates an incident in which an officer is forced to react in split-second decisions. It allows supervisors to see if the officer responds appropriately.

“The machine was kind of like a video game,” LoCurto-Martinez said. “It was the most active presentation we’ve had.”

Guidelines created by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement encourage police training, but also say civilian review groups should turn to organizations outside the Police Department for further education.

Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight was present at Wednesday’s meeting to educate the board about court proceedings.

After Knight’s presentation, the board discussed setting up training sessions with organizations outside law enforcement.

Officer Jessie Haden, a spokeswoman for the department, said outside training is important for the board.

“We didn’t want them to feel biased, or the public to feel they were biased, or even create the perception that there was a bias,” Haden said.

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Layton Light February 13, 2010 | 1:36 a.m.

If a Citizens Police Review Board met and no one complained, would it still make a sound?

C'mon folks, lets stir up some complaints for these people to get behind. This is Columbia, MO. According to the good citizens of this town, there's GOT to be a cop doing something wrong somewhere!

I can't believe I just read that article. According to this unbiased board, it's not that there are no complaints. It's that the complaining process isn't easy enough. Is it any wonder CPD is having trouble recruiting?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 13, 2010 | 8:32 a.m.

It disturbs me too that a Review Board hangs out their shingle, then positions itself as ambulance chasers when there are such few accidents.

(Report Comment)
Big Baldwin February 13, 2010 | 2:22 p.m.

Hello Review Board! Look folks, you have already accomplished something dozens of other cities and towns are begging for but are being stopped from by their PDs and police unions---you have an organization. What are you waiting for? The authority you have achieved is not like renting a store front on main street with a grand opening date followed by waiting for your first customer. The key word here is "proactive".

There are things you need to do in order to make your PD what your tax money is paying for. Start with hire and fire. Move on to editing the police policy. After that, go to the police academy training manuals. Make the police what YOU want them to be, not what cops want to be. When you do, the citizen complaints will take care of themselves, and the Board will serve the public better than any PD ever could.

(Report Comment)
Layton Light February 13, 2010 | 3:38 p.m.

Hey Big Baldwin, I think I just found the tag line for your blog:

"There's GOT to be a cop doing something wrong somewhere!"

Glad you took an interest in our town's review board, but judging from your email address you're somewhere on the east coast. Right? I guess you have TOTAL control over your police there so you thought you'd lend us a hand here. That's the beauty of the internet. Fanatics from anywhere can drop in and visit.

(Report Comment)
Big Baldwin February 13, 2010 | 4:02 p.m.

Layton Light, you are right to a certain extent--there are cops doing something wrong somewhere, but that is due to the citizen's lack of oversight with teeth. Cops start out seeking the job for all the wrong reasons, and then the academy they attend takes it from there to a full-blown ego problem. What other result would we expect? So yes, there is always a cop doing something wrong somewhere, just like it is always 5 o'clock somewhere, if you get the reference.

About location, right 100%.

About total control over our PDs, 100% wrong, and that is part of the reason why stories about cops doing things wrong is worth the attention of everybody across the USA. It doesn't take a fanatic to know it is wrong for a cop to sodomize a citizen with his nightstick in a subway station in NYC, but one did, while 2 fellow cops covered it up. That is just a recent news headline, and there are many more, from the north, south, east and west. Cops are a MAJOR problem for the citizen's homeland security as well as our state and federal constitutions. I'm no fanatic, Layton, I simply have the ability to read and write. Don't take my comments as an intrusion, take them as a wake up call.

(Report Comment)

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