LETTER: Keep Citizens Police Review Board meetings public

Friday, July 15, 2011 | 2:29 p.m. CDT; updated 4:34 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 19, 2011

To: The Citizens Police Review Board, the mayor and members of Columbia City Council

From: The Mid-Missouri Branch of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

We do appreciate the willingness of citizen volunteers to serve on the Citizens Police Review Board and their desire to promote greater respect and trust between the public and the police.

In light of that desire, we do have the following concerns:

We feel that the board, by closing some meetings to the public, would diminish its prime goal of building — and maintaining — trust between the public and the police.  

Public meetings are necessary to allow the public to see and understand how the police interpret and put into practice their own regulations, as protection of our citizens not only applies to each one of us but also to our fellow human beings in this city.

There are various ways that anonymity of both complainants and officers could be preserved without closing meetings to the public.

If some complainants are concerned about being identified to the public — or testifying "publicly" against the police — why not offer to them the option to testify at a public meeting either through live audio only or prerecorded audio?  

Complainants could be in a separate room during testimony with their voice piped into the public meeting.  A voice-modification device could be used to avoid identification.  

If complaints were prerecorded, any unwanted names could be bleeped out before the information was presented to the public. These options could be done without changes to the board's regulations.

Closed board meetings will risk a further impression to the public that it is stifling public inquiries and concerns and weakening scrutiny of possibly excessive police force in this community.

Finally, closed board meetings raise the vital issue as to whether it is illegal under the Sunshine Law to ban the general public from a meeting of a governmental body.

Please promote public trust by keeping all Citizens Police Review Board meetings open to the public.

Thank you for your consideration.

Founded in 1915, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is one of the world's oldest continuously active peace organizations. From WWI through the 21st century, the league has taken action to oppose war and the root causes of war, and to promote peace, social justice, racial equality and women's empowerment.


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