COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council is scheduled to vote Monday whether to provide the recently formed Citizens Police Review Board with funding to attend a training conference in Seattle.
The ordinance that formed the board in July specifies that it follow several established groups of guidelines. So far, the board has been able to procure training for all of those guidelines except the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement standards.
The association holds conferences annually. This year's conference in Seattle will be held September 20-23, and the expected cost to send two representatives is $4,040*.
At the April 19 council meeting, Mayor Bob McDavid proposed an amendment to save money by sending only one representative to the conference for $2,020*.
McDavid said he is required to attend several continuing education courses each year.
"It was amazing how frugal I could be when I was spending my own money," McDavid said at the meeting.
The Citizens Police Review Board already has exhausted its training options for the other required guidelines through books, films and speakers, and the association in question lacks the resources to host online seminars by webcam, board Chairwoman Ellen LoCurto-Martinez said at the last meeting.
Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl suggested postponing sending anyone to the conference until next year.
“I think the error was probably made last budget year by not funding this commission, and next year we need to be sure that they get funded,” Kespohl said.
LoCurto-Martinez also said the costs associated with sending representatives to conferences for training could be compared to the start-up costs of a business.
“This really isn’t a request for additional (funding) — we have no funds,” LoCurto-Martinez said.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser expressed concern that the board would be presented with a case but lack proper training to make the best decision possible.
"We are talking about police officers, their livelihood and their employment," Nauser said. "And I think we owe it to our police department that the Citizens Review Board reviewing them have the most current and up-to-date knowledge."
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe suggested allocating council contingency funds for the conference.
The Citizens Police Review Board also has requested funding to print more brochures advising the public where they can go to file a complaint with the board.