Citizen review board

Monday, June 4, 2007 | 12:28 a.m. CDT; updated 7:52 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Members of the Minority Men’s Network will present a recommendation to the City Council tonight to establish a citizen review board for the Columbia Police Department because of what they see as a widening rift between police and community members.

According to a resolution submitted by the network to the City Council on Thursday, complaint procedures established by the Columbia Police Department have proved “significantly inadequate in ending police abuses” and gaining public confidence in an unbiased internal review process.

Charles Nilon, president of the network, said the purpose of the resolution is to bring the review board issue forward.

“We want the City Council and the mayor to start addressing questions about a citizen review board in a very serious way,” he said.

The establishment of a citizen review board has been an ongoing issue in Columbia.

Last year, the Douglass Coalition, a group of residents concerned with police misconduct, proposed a similar review board to the City Council. City Manager Bill Watkins dismissed it.

Watkins said the proposed ordinance would give the citizen board too much authority.

In January, a consulting agency, hired by the city to audit the internal review policies of the Columbia Police Department, suggested some of the department’s policies were outdated but made no mention of a citizen review board.

Police Chief Randy Boehm said he did not think such a review board was necessary, adding that the community as a whole is supportive of the police department.

“I think we do a good job of policing ourselves,” Boehm said.

Al Plummer, former executive director of the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and one of the members of the Minority Men’s Network who will be present at the City Council meeting tonight, said he thinks the police have the support of the community, but “there are bumps in the road.” These, he said, could be addressed by a citizen review board without having to change the entire system.

“The people have an ultimate responsibility to at least oversee the operations of any public agencies,” Plummer said.

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