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City Council votes on revised Citizens Police Review Board ordinance

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 | 5:47 p.m. CST; updated 8:08 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 22, 2011

COLUMBIA — The City Council amended an ordinance governing the Citizens Police Review Board, rejecting the majority of Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton's proposed changes.

The decision at Monday's council meeting came four months after Mayor Bob McDavid gave the review board and the police an informal two-month deadline to submit proposed changes for the ordinance.

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The board was established with council approval in July 2009 to review appeals made by people with complaints about the Columbia Police Department's conduct. Among other things, the ordinance determines the extent of the board's power of review and who can make an appeal to the board.

The ordinance will change in three ways:

  • First, the new ordinance will include a definition of police misconduct. It will be "any violation of  federal law, state law, city ordinance, city regulation or police department policy, guideline, directive, rule, regulation or order in effect at the time of the incident."

In a May 14 memo to McDavid, City Manager Mike Matthes and then-chairwoman of the board, Ellen LoCurto-Martinez, Burton suggested that the definition of misconduct be the same as the one in the Missouri Revised Statutes: "excessive use of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, or use of offensive language, including, but not limited to, slurs relating to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation and disability."

  • Second, per the new ordinance, sessions will be closed if two-thirds of the board votes to close it. This is allowed in situations involving witnesses 16 or younger, and in situations involving sexual assault or intimidation.

Previously, the ordinance only allowed closed sessions if required by state or federal law or if an open session would reveal the identity of an undercover officer.

Burton suggested that the ordinance be changed to allow closing sessions not only by a two-thirds vote of the board, but also if requested by a complainant or an officer involved in the complaint.

  • Third, the police chief will have to post online all information on police conduct, excluding information that "would reveal tactics that would endanger the life of any police officer."

Burton's memo did not address the possibility of posting police policies online.

Burton suggested a number of other changes to the ordinance, none of which was included in the revised ordinance accepted by the City Council. He suggested:

  • Allowing complaints to be filed only by people involved in an incident or by the parent or guardian of someone involved who is younger than 17. Currently, anybody in Boone County who witnessed an incident can file a complaint with the board.
  • Eliminating a section that says filing a complaint with the board does not open to the public police records that are otherwise closed.
  • Including standards of training for board members and require quarterly ride-alongs with police officers.
  • Reducing the time that a complaint can be made from one year after the incident to 90 days afterward.

Burton said Tuesday that he was "perfectly fine" with the changes made and that he was "committed to making the process work." He said he has no immediate plans to request further changes to the ordinance.

The City Council also voted to appoint Sandra Neal to the board.


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