Citizens Police Review Board discusses SWAT raid, long waits for complaints

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 | 10:50 p.m. CDT; updated 3:17 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 12, 2010

*CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify when an attorney spoke to the board.

COLUMBIA — The Citizens Police Review Board sided with the Columbia Police Department for the second time in a week.

During its Wednesday night meeting the board discussed 41 appeals, en masse, regarding the Feb. 11 SWAT raid at 1501 Kinloch Court, and again it cleared the officers involved of misconduct. During the raid, officers fatally shot a pit bull, while a 7-year-old was in the house. A small amount of marijuana was found.

Previously, an internal investigation Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton conducted cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, but Burton publicly admitted the department made some missteps before the raid. He made several changes to the department's SWAT policy.

Last week, the board heard its first appeal of a complaint about that incident from a pair of activists from California. The meeting was surrounded with several questions, including the role of the board and who exactly can file a complaint. It heard the appeal but sided with Burton's final decision.

When the California-based appeal was criticized for being outside of Columbia, 41 residents appealed the chief's decision themselves. The board reaffirmed the officer's actions were proper. The vote Wednesday night was the same 4-3 vote as last week.

"At this point, I have no compelling evidence that the police officers discharged their weapons in a way that violated the policy that was in place at the time," board member Steve Weinberg said.

Dan Viets, a local attorney who filed one of the appeals, said he didn't want to see anyone involved in the incident punished. Instead, Viets wants to see more changes to the policy.

"The problem is not how quickly they execute a search warrant," he said of Burton's changes. "The problem, what matters, is the violence employed in the execution of those warrants."

The board agreed to look at the use of search warrants for nonviolent crimes. The board also agreed to examine whether the department was following a 2004 ordinance passed by voters that instructs police to make marijuana possession a low priority of police enforcement.

Burton has previously expressed doubts about the ordinance's enforceability.

The board also discussed the time it takes for formal complaints to work their way through the Police Department.

The process works like this: When someone feels like he or she has been mistreated by an officer that person can file a formal complaint with the department, which triggers an internal investigation. The results of the investigation are then sent up the chain of command and reviewed, with the chief having final say. If the chief rules that the officer acted appropriately, the complainant can then appeal the decision to the review board.

When he addressed the board, Deputy Chief Tom Dresner apologized for the generally long wait on complaints but said the unit handling them has too much work to do and not enough officers to do it.

Earlier in the meeting, a local attorney said the police department needs to move faster on complaints, even if it is busy.

"I've an inbox this big on my desk," attorney David Tyson Smith said as he raised he hand up to his chest. "So I respect that, but it's not good enough."

Smith was representing a woman whose complaint has still not been resolved after four months. The suggested time table is 50 days, according to a Police Department standard referenced by the board.

Dresner described this time period as "wildly optimistic" and said without additional funding more officers probably can't be added to the internal review force.

The board requested the most up-to-date policy on internal reviews and agreed the wait was too long but did not take any formal action during the meeting.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Phil Wilkinson August 12, 2010 | 4:00 a.m.

I must admit, 4 months to resolve a complaint is way to long. However, with everyone and their brother filing complaints against CPD (most likely on a daily basis), I can understand the Chiefs dilemma. Although some people might think that many of these complaints are petty BS, they still must run the gambit as set forth by CPD/City policy. Keep in mind that "The People" of Columbia are the ones who insisted on these policies to be adhered to in the first place.
In another related story I read that the Review Board had set up a sub-committee to look at issues only to end up using a City of Columbia Council Board Member suggestion instead....and now it begins.

(Report Comment)
Tom Dresner August 12, 2010 | 1:33 p.m.

Good article Will. However, it's inaccurate to say a local attorney rebutted me. He made the inbox comment before I ever addressed the board.


(Report Comment)
Matt Pearce August 12, 2010 | 3:18 p.m.

Thanks for the note, Tom. We've updated the story to clarify Smith's comment.

-Matt Pearce
Assistant City Editor
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.