COLUMBIA — After more than 90 minutes of testimony Wednesday, the Citizens Police Review Board scheduled an additional meeting to draft a proposal to change the ordinance.
Issues such as defining police misconduct, the review board's independence from the Police Department, whether meetings should be closed when requested by a complainant or police officer and training for board members were discussed.
After concluding the public comment session, board members entered into a work session with representatives of the Columbia Police Officers' Association and Columbia Police Department Chief Ken Burton.
As a result, the review board scheduled an additional meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday to draft its proposal to the City Council. It will address seven key differences of opinion between the review board and the Police Department raised by Mayor Bob McDavid on Aug. 1.
Citizens emphasized a desire for the review board to remain independent of the Police Department and a desire for transparency and accountability. Some citizens also spoke of rejecting any proposed changes to the review board ordinance for now.
Columbia attorney David T. Smith said he believes that changing the review board now would undermine the democratic process and undermine the citizens of Columbia.
Mary Ratliff, local and state president of the NAACP, said the NAACP objected to any proposed changes to the review board at this time.
"I think the less involvement the Police Department has in this citizen review board the better off we will be in an advisory capacity," she said. "I think the citizens of Columbia are looking for an independent citizen review board, and I think that is what we have."
During the work session Wednesday evening, officers' association representatives — executive director Ashley Cuttle and former executive director Eric Dearmont — agreed with earlier citizen comments stressing the board should be independent from the Police Department and also recommended more training for the members.
"We think you need more training. We think the chief needs more training. We think everyone who's a professional needs more training," Dearmont said.
Dearmont and Cuttle also stressed the recommendations are simply a negotiable starting point.
"We didn't intend for any of the proposals listed in here to be the be-all end-all," Dearmont said. "We just wanted to get the conceptual ball rolling."
The review board chairman James Martin said he was pleased with Wednesday's meeting.
"We gave a lot of leeway for people to speak because we want a lot of community involvement," he said. "We are still weighing our options over having closed or open meetings."