The Citizens Police Review Board is contemplating an amendment to its governing ordinance that would specify who can appeal the ruling on a complaint against Columbia police.
Currently, the ordinance requires only that appeals be filed within 21 days of the police chief's decision about alleged police misconduct. It makes no mention of jurisdiction or who has standing to file an appeal.
But after an unexpected appeal from California resident Ed Rosenthal regarding the Feb. 11 SWAT incident — and extensive debate over whether they even had to hear it — the review board formed a subcommittee to discuss just that.
According to Gary Kespohl, the three-member subcommittee has drafted an ordinance change requiring that complainants:
- Be Columbia residents;
- Be a directly involved party or witness to the incident; or
- Have a direct relationship to someone involved in the incident.
Kespohl, who represents the Third Ward and serves as the review board's City Council liaison, has voiced support for the ordinance change.
"What I don't want is for the review board to spend their time discussing complaints without any ties to Columbia," he said in a previous Missourian article.
The issue of standing has been handled differently by different review boards. But a study of the policies governing other members of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement shows that a decision to limit eligibility in the appeals process could put Columbia's review board in a minority.
Several review boards specifically open the appeals process to anyone with knowledge of alleged police misconduct.
In Pittsburgh, for example, "it didn't have to happen to you." According to its website, the Pittsburgh review board hears appeals from anyone who knows "about a situation that hurts the relationship between citizens and the police."
San Diego's review board has a similar policy and will hear appeals from "any person dissatisfied with police services."
But many NACOLE members omit the issue of standing or vaguely leave the process open to "any person" wishing to make a complaint.
Columbia's ordinance change must be approved by the City Council, which will discuss it at the Aug. 16 meeting.
Should the review board change its ordinance to limit who may appeal complaints against Columbia police?