*Correction: This story has been corrected to make Ken Green's comments accurate.
COLUMBIA — The Citizens Police Review Board wants Columbia Police Department records about complaints and concerns to be more accessible for audits.
The board, which does regular audits of complaints and concerns filed about police misconduct, said at its meeting Wednesday night that it doesn't have enough access to these files.
The way the system works now, review board members must go down to the police station to audit the records on their own time.
Board members pleaded their case to Police Chief Ken Burton at Wednesday's meeting, saying the board could review concerns and pass recommendations to the department through mediation.
The reports are complicated and time consuming to sift through, board member Jordon Hargrove said at a special board meeting Saturday. On their last visit on April 18, it took Hargrove and board member Daniel Jacob eight hours to examine six of 104 complaints and concerns.
Burton disagreed with the board's proposal because more access to these concerns meant the private information of the police officers and citizens involved would be out in the open.
"You don't have the line anymore of what's confidential and what's not," Burton said.
Board member Stephen Alexander then suggested that redacting the personal information from these reports would, in principle, protect the identities of those involved in the concerns while giving the board better access.
Burton agreed that redaction could be an option and that he's open to finding a solution.
"I really think there's some middle ground here," Burton said, "So let's try to make it work."
Board members brainstormed some possible solutions that marries access with privacy.
- Board member Hargrove suggested making the records accessible electronically, guarded by a login given only to the board members.
- Board member Alexander suggested the Police Department periodically send the board hard copies of the records, which would be shredded after their audits.
Again, the board discussed the possibility of redacting officers' and citizens' information in reports given to the board to try to preserve privacy.
The board unanimously voted to create a subcommittee to investigate the best possible solution and to write a letter to City Council proposing an amendment to the city ordinance that gives the board access to the concerns. The group will present its findings at the board's June 12 meeting.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, Ken Green spoke to the board and approved of their efforts.
"Things were said tonight during the interchange between you and those from our police department that make me feel it has never been more urgent for strong, questioning and proactive Citizens Police Review Board," he said.
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