advertisement

J. KARL MILLER: Citizens Police Review Board creates schism between police, residents

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 11:19 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 23, 2011

There oft comes a time in the pursuit of lofty goals fashioned by well-meaning and civic-minded government-appointed panels that the governing body must bite the bullet and admit the consequences so far outpace the benefits that the creation be scrapped as quickly and quietly as possible. This is the fate that should befall the Citizens Police Review Board.

In response to a 2006 complaint lodged against the Columbia Police Department, Mayor Darwin Hindman appointed a Citizen Police Oversight Committee the following year because of concerns of misconduct and malpractice in Columbia and across the nation, allegedly targeting minorities. The organizations supporting the oversight panel were familiar — the NAACP, Minority Men's Network, Boone County Concerned Citizens and the ACLU.

Recognizing the possibility of patterns of abusive or otherwise wrongful acts, the Police Department overhauled its internal review process in order to facilitate public scrutiny. The resultant act provided monthly and quarterly review of the number and types of complaints, investigative findings and action taken — a transparency that opened the department's books for all to see.

Nevertheless, on June 27, 2008, the 13-member Oversight Committee voted unanimously to recommend external oversight of the Columbia Police Department. On July 20, 2009, the Columbia City Council established the Citizens Police Review Board, approving the ordinance by unanimous vote. The council was to select eight of the board's members, and the ninth was to be chosen by the Human Rights Commission.

While it is clear that the review board has not covered itself with glory or even given the appearance of being well organized and capable of performing the duties of its charter in its first year, that is to be expected of fledgling organizations with little historical precedent as a guide. From its review of the ill-fated Feb. 11, 2010, SWAT raid to the conclusion that Columbia Police Officer Nathan Turner acted with unreasonable force and was guilty of misconduct in a nightclub incident in December 2009, the decisions have provoked controversy.

The most damaging is the board's finding Officer Turner guilty of misconduct in employing physical force against Derek Billups, a decision at odds with Columbia Police Department guidelines. The board may not arbitrarily establish a set of guidelines that differs from current regulations — police officers need a clearly established set of guidelines to follow.

The consequences should be obvious to all. While Police Chief Ken Burton has sought actively to dispel the existence of an adversarial relationship between the department and the review board, the message to the individual police officer is hardly one of mutual trust. Morale is a positive but also fragile element, particularly among those whose teamwork responsibilities place them in harm's way — that beat cop, patrolman or patrol supervisor expects loyalty and trust to be a two-way street.

I am not going to dwell on either the imperfections of the Citizens Police Review Board or those inherent in any law enforcement organization. Instead, I will merely reiterate my previous opinion, one in which I was joined by City Manager Bill Watkins — the review board is an unnecessary and potentially damaging entity.

I do understand the requirement for civilian oversight of a city's police department — we see a similar need for civilian review of the U.S. military, provided by the president as commander-in-chief and by the Defense Department. Are not the mayor, the City Council, the city manager and the ever-vigilant free press sufficient oversight of the Columbia Police Department's internal review process?

Regulatory supervision should be complementary rather than adversarial to law enforcement. This guarantees the policeman or policewoman need not be constrained in performance of duties by the specter of 20/20 hindsight by otherwise well-meaning citizens who have never walked in those shoes or the apprehension that some arbitrary racial quota be exceeded.

And, in fairness, I include those organizations described in the second paragraph, along with Grass Roots Organizing and People for a Taser-Free Columbia, as playing important oversight roles. Although rarely reasonable and often annoying in their approach, these special-interest groups pose questions that may not be ignored but must be addressed by both government and the media.

Consequently, the City Council has demonstrated an age-old maxim: When you fix something that ain't broke, the ensuing cure creates a more serious malady than existed before. Before the review board creates an irreparable schism between itself and an efficient and well-led Police Department, let's allow it to fade quietly into the sunset.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.


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.


Comments

Ellis Smith February 23, 2011 | 7:42 a.m.

This topic should garner a few comments. I can see valid arguments both ways.

You're coming up with some interesting ones, Karl, and that's how it should be.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush February 23, 2011 | 8:01 a.m.

"...a transparency that opened the department's books for all to see."
Ha! Good one!
Clearly you've never heard of the Blue Code of Silence...or the "ham sandwich."

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 23, 2011 | 9:54 a.m.

I would like to know when Bill Watkins said "the review board is an unnecessary and potentially damaging entity" since here is what he said in today's press release from the city saying he was agreeing with the minority opinion of the review board:

"I firmly believe the Board serves an important role in this community"

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 23, 2011 | 9:57 a.m.

I don't know Mr. Miller... If you don't want transparency in government, then I can see your argument. If you don't want government oversight, then I can see your argument.

But if you want a fair and open process by which citizens with grievances against the Police Department can feel encouraged to submit those grievances, then you have no argument.

I mean, the only other recourse is to sue the city. And we see that is already happening. And we see the city is going broke.

What I'd like to see is the attorneys get together that support the CPRB, and tell the city this: "If you don't allow the CPRB a little more authority or if you attempt to shut it down, we will form an organization for the citizens by which we will file a Federal Lawsuit for EVERY single citizen that comes to us with a grievance, and let the courts decide since there will be no CPRB to decide, or even if there is a CPRB it would be powerless to enforce its own decisions"..

I think that is a good idea. There are a few attorneys that want to start up "Non-Profit Legal Clinics"; they could very well do this. Then we'll see if you won't be BEGGING for the city to bring back the CPRB, Mr. Miller.....

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 23, 2011 | 10:05 a.m.

Quote from article:
"Consequently, the City Council has demonstrated an age-old maxim: When you fix something that ain't broke, the ensuing cure creates a more serious malady than existed before. Before the review board creates an irreparable schism between itself and an efficient and well-led Police Department, let's allow it to fade quietly into the sunset."

My response:
Many people in the community agree 100 percent. They have said as much. And often. Their reasoning for objecting to review panel: "its second guessing those who protect and serve the community."

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm February 23, 2011 | 10:46 a.m.

Is this guy serious?

"Recognizing the possibility of patterns of abusive or otherwise wrongful acts, the Police Department overhauled its internal review process in order to facilitate public scrutiny. The resultant act provided monthly and quarterly review of the number and types of complaints, investigative findings and action taken — a transparency that opened the department's books for all to see."

Never mind, it is obvious this guy is trolling.

(Report Comment)
Chip Leaver February 23, 2011 | 12:00 p.m.

I don't see any valid reason not to have someone watching over those who are watching over us.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle February 23, 2011 | 12:35 p.m.

Problem is, the CPRB's real job is to run interference.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire February 23, 2011 | 12:38 p.m.

If I allow someone to remove half of my brain will the paper give me a column complete with a cheering section?

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 23, 2011 | 12:53 p.m.

Some people are "Intentionally Ignorant" enough to believe that we don't need the CPRB. Or just plain STUPID.... "Dumb Bunnies" are what I call them.....

But the fact is, the CPRB has probably protected the city from a few lawsuits by rendering an opinion that would discourage an attorney from filing on behalf of a person claiming damages due to civil rights violations...

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller February 23, 2011 | 1:45 p.m.

As I understand it, the purpose of publishing the opinions online is to provide a vehicle for discussion, disagreement and/or agreement. I support and welcome that give and take and, quite frankly, find much of it to be rather amusing. For Mr Schultz: "■Nov. 2, 2006 — Bill Watkins recommends the council vote against a civilian review board saying that such an ordinance "would be like trying to kill a mosquito with a 50-pound sledge hammer."

For Messers Bush, Gurley, Hamm and others who deny the Police Dept's overhaul of its internal review procedures to provide monthly and quarterly transparency availability, I suggest you do as I did--which is visit the the department and do the research. But, then, if you did the research, you would be denied the opportunity to post your clever but inanely clueless disclaimers. It has always been easier to criticize than to create--I do thank you for the attention.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire February 23, 2011 | 2:14 p.m.

"Nov. 2, 2006 — Bill Watkins recommends the council vote against a civilian review board saying that such an ordinance "would be like trying to kill a mosquito with a 50-pound sledge hammer.""

"here is what he said in today's press release from the city saying he was agreeing with the minority opinion of the review board:
"I firmly believe the Board serves an important role in this community""

One opinion is five more years current than the other. If I wanted to gauge someone's actual opinion I would tend to look to the more recent things that person had said. I would look to the previous things maybe if I was cross examining the same person. Do you suppose it is possible for one's opinion to evolve over five years?

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 23, 2011 | 2:28 p.m.

Is there a guy named "Messer" on here, or are you calling Bush, Hamm, and I "Messers"? LOL.

I have looked, and I don't see anyone named "Messer"? If you are calling me a "Messer"... What exactly is a "Messer"? Do you mean "Muckraker", "Troublemaker", "Crap Stirrer"? Okay, I plead guilty to all of the above names.. If using some common sense and initiatiing a "Well Conditioned, and Highly Tuned Speculation Machine", that is not your normal consumer grade, "Speculation Machine", but instead one in which I make a pretty good living with, and is usually correct; then yes I am all of the above... LOL.

Mr. Miller, I see nothing in my post that denies "the Police Dept's overhaul of its internal review procedures to provide monthly and quarterly transparency availability".

Ahhh, Mr. Miller.. You know nothing about me, and have not taken the time to understand what I do for a living. Had you done that, you would have made sure that you did not apply this comment to me: "But, then, if you did the research, you would be denied the opportunity to post your clever but inanely clueless disclaimers."

I WORK those cases that you did that research on for a living, sir! I am on the other side of the table with the defense when these cases come to court often enough, sir! I know about the mishandling of evidence that occurs, sir! I have a former Police Officer of 22 years with 12 of those years as a Detective in Major Crimes that has worked with CPD Officers on Major Cases, working for me! The things that you know from your research could fit into a thimble when compared to what I have learned from actually working and making a living in the area that we are discussing now.

It is not even acceptable to let any professional agency that requires licensing police itself, so why should the Police Department be allowed to? Oversight is NEEDED! Transparency is NOT transparent if it can't be trusted by the verification of a third unbiased and impartial party, sir!

Just as sure as you had an Inspector General or something similar in the Marine Corps, the Police Department NEEDS the same type of oversight. The CPRB is a part of the City of Columbia, in the same organizational structure as the CPD, so there is no need to say that the comparison is not the same...

Ask ANY Deputy at the Boone County Sheriff's Department that is not afraid to speak candidly to you, and they will tell you the "horror stories" and why the CPD NEEDS that oversight. Maybe you'll get lucky enough to find one of those few Deputies that actually walked off from assisting the CPD after they figured out what was going on at the scene.......

Mr. Miller, this is an area that you are actually poorly equipped to render any meaningful opinion in...

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm February 23, 2011 | 2:29 p.m.

"I suggest you do as I did--which is visit the the department and do the research. But, then, if you did the research, you would be denied the opportunity to post your clever but inanely clueless disclaimers"

Mr. Miller, CPD and especially Chief Burton have lost a lot, if not all, credibility from a significant segment of the Columbia population and for good reason. You expect us to just take their word that they are now doing things on the up and up? Some of us are not so naive that we just accept whatever we are told. We wanted a third party to stand up for us; to ensure credibility. Unfortunately I agree with Mr. Foggle that all the CPRB really does is run interference. Hopefully overtime this will change. I have even more hope for the day when we do not need a CPRB. A day when we can actually trust our police department to follow the laws that they are entrusted to enforce and that when a officer does break the law (Robert Fox) he is treated the same as any other citizen; not above the law like Burton seems to think the police are.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop February 23, 2011 | 2:48 p.m.

Since the creation of the CPRB, how many cases have they reviewed?

Of those cases, how many have they found serious police misconduct?

What has changed since the creation of the CPRB?

In view of your responses to your answers above, is the CPRB really necessary?

You be the judge. If there doesn't appear to actually have been a problem other than perception, then the board is really not accomplishing anything and should be disbanded.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 23, 2011 | 2:59 p.m.

When is the last time you saw a Taser incident in the paper, Don? And when before that last incident you saw in the paper? And prior to the formation of the CPRB how many were in the paper in a 1 year period, Don?

When was the last time you saw an allegation of Police misconduct in the paper, Don? And prior to that, when was the last time? And in the year prior to the formation of the CPRB, how many did you see in the paper?

When did the two incidents occur that the city is being sued for in Federal Court right now, before or after the formation of the CPRB, Don?

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 23, 2011 | 4:47 p.m.

While digging up the source for the sledgehammer comment from Bill Watkins, I ran across this quote from an April 2, 2009 Missourian story:

"Burton said he supports a review board and was only concerned that the board be fair and protect the rights of both citizens and officers.

"We serve the city of Columbia," Burton said. "If citizens want an oversight board, they should have one."

Regarding Mr. Watkins' comment, what I was able to speculate based on reading a couple Missourian stories, is that the proposed review board ordinance in 2006 had more teeth in it compared to the current ordinance, such as subpoena power. I was unable to find the specified quote in the city minutes or agenda as I would expect, but it's possible it's tricky to find such older documents on the city's website.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush February 23, 2011 | 4:58 p.m.

"But, then, if you did the research, you would be denied the opportunity to post your clever but inanely clueless disclaimers. It has always been easier to criticize than to create...." My post was neither clever nor a disclaimer.
Your experience down at the police station is not everybody's experience down at the police station. And there's traffic on I-70 when you're not driving on it and there's still a moving picture show even when you don't buy a ticket to the moving picture show and when you close your eyes in a room full of people there's still a room full of people. Developmentally it's called "object permanence."
But I'll assume you took the easy way out by calling my post inane.
As for Milsop - he doesn't even live here. He's just an internet troll looking to pick a fight. Feed at your own peril.

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger February 23, 2011 | 5:18 p.m.

Mr. Gurley queries, "Is there a guy named "Messer" on here, or are you calling Bush, Hamm, and I "Messers"? LOL.

I have looked, and I don't see anyone named "Messer"? If you are calling me a "Messer"... What exactly is a "Messer"? "

In essence, it's the plural of the French "monsieur," and is not so commonly (but correctly) used to address multiple males. Mr. Miller should have followed "Messers" with a period, but that's a forgivable lapse.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 23, 2011 | 5:21 p.m.

Don, here's an answer to your question, let us know what you find out:

http://www.gocolumbiamo.com/Council/Comm...

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 23, 2011 | 6:03 p.m.

Thank you, Hank. I did not know that. Now if he would have just said "y'all", I would have understood... LOL.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox February 23, 2011 | 6:08 p.m.

Miller's future post should be relabeled as "What Really Grinds My Gears" because he makes about as much sense as Peter Griffin from "Family Guy".

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop February 24, 2011 | 6:33 a.m.

I was taught it was Mssrs.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 24, 2011 | 7:09 a.m.

It's French.

Americans experience problems with French titles, place names, etc.

In Pennsylvania, "DuBois" [due.bwaw] is pronounced "due. boys." An early morning commuter flight from Pittsburgh often requires circling the DuBois airport while the ground crew chases the deer off the runway. No joke!

In Missouri, "Versailles" [ver.sigh] is pronounced "ver. sails." (Same for the city in Kentucky.)

In Iowa, "Des Moines" is pronounced "dee.moyn" but in Illinois "Des Plaines" is pronounced "des.planes." Go figure!

Bring me some of them crappy suzetties, garcon.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 24, 2011 | 4:04 p.m.

Ellis: I'm disappointed. You didn't tackle Ox.Vawsey.

(Report Comment)
Lloyd Thomas February 25, 2011 | 1:58 p.m.

"Creates schism"...
This divide between residents and LEOs was not created by the review board, lol Mr Miller. The review board may serve to accentuate and call attention to instances where citizens and LEOs see things differently. But these differences exist with or without the CPRB. For simplicity's sake I would suggest that Mr Miller exemplifies the gist of these differences perfectly in his own thinking and background regarding citizens and their police force. The problem and the 'divide' comes with a military approach to police work. This mentality is good when you are fighting a war on a specific enemy. Police work is not a war. There is no enemy. There are citizens that break laws but that does not make them our enemy. If the law enforcement community treats the citizens as adversaries, the divide will grow. The CPRB is necessary and vital. It allows clarification and understanding through communication. With the CPRB as a vehicle this divide can be bridged.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 25, 2011 | 6:27 p.m.

Here Here, Lloyd. Good Point!

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Paul Love February 26, 2011 | 11:12 p.m.

Might I suggest that an officer acting within current guidelines is only doing what he has been taught and instructed to do. Regardless of what the CPRB finds he should have done based on what the citizens believe should have been done. Where the CPRB would find an admirable purpose would be after a finding to work with the CPD to see where the current guidelines can be modified to more accurately reflect the actions desired of our local law enforcement officers so that a repeat occurance of the incident does not happen.

Rightly or wrongly depending on your beliefs the CPRB has not been granted the right to discipline officers and seeking to do so under the current charter only serves to weaken system. It is completely acceptable that the CPRB find that the officer acted wrongly based on the viewpoint of the board. However at that point rather than decrying the police finding and seeking to punish the officer they need to work on making those regulatory changes happen. If there was a serious breach due to the current policies then the individual can pursue civil action against the city for the fault of the policy.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 26, 2011 | 11:39 p.m.

Paul,

Here are the problems as I see them...

First, the CPRB is supposed to be (for lack of a better term) "the appellate body" whenever a person does not get what they believe is a satisfactory conclusion from the CPD's "Internal Affairs Investigations". That is SUPPOSED to be the structure of this process with the CPRB. That is why the CPD has to finish their internal investigation before a person can APPEAL to the CPRB. Now in almost every instance I can think of except this one with the CPRB, the "appellate body" has the authority to send a decision back for reconsideration, or over-rule the decision altogether. That is an appropriate authority for an "appellate body". Here we don't see that appropriate authority in place.

And ask yourself what kind of an example the Chief is setting for the citizens when he tells the appellate body to "go fly a kite"? Does a criminal that is convicted of a crime in court have the privilege of telling the Judge to "go fly a kite" and then walking out of the court room with no consequences? It is called submitting to authority. Which is what the Chief of Police (above anyone else) should be setting a good example for the citizens of Columbia by doing.

Of course Mr. Miller would tell you this is very true, you are supposed to follow the orders of those that are above you in the chain of command. And in this case, the CPRB is SUPPOSED to be the higher authority in the chain of command in regards to internal affairs matters which is why they are able to determine if the CPD Internal Affairs investigation was concluded correctly or not. Except he seems to make an exception for the CPD.........

Second of all, whether it was Officer Turner's fault (and he did admit that he "may have made a mistake"), or whether it was a matter of "not so good policy", the blame still falls to the CPD, CERTAINLY not on Mr. Billups. Mr. Billups was the "injured party" here through no fault of his own. So, someone at the CPD should have been setting another good example by simply offering this man an apology. Saying "We are not perfect, we made a mistake, and you suffered at the very least some humiliation for it, and we are sorry for that". That’s all, nobody is asking the CPD to go clean Mr. Billups house for the next month, just a simple apology would have sufficed.

Third of all, if the CPRB can not enforce their own decisions, then what in the world are we paying our tax dollars to fund them for? The trip to Branson. The training they received. That all cost money, and you can bet that it was all paid for with our tax dollars.

These are my issues with this whole ordeal, in a nutshell.

Ricky Gurley.

(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.

advertisements