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Police Review Board To See Changes In Training, Recruitment

Changes are coming to Charlotte's Citizens Review Board. That's the group which hears appeals of disciplinary decisions involving CMPD officers. The board has been criticized following high-profile police shootings over the past couple of years in which officers weren't punished, such as the killing of Keith Scott last September.

Victims' advocates want more diversity and better training for review board members, two changes the Charlotte City Council adopted Monday night.  

John Dawkins is an organizer with SAFE Coalition, which pushed for the changes. He says the Council did what it could.

"I'm satisfied with the effort that they are making within the scope, or the ability, that they have to work with," said Dawkins.

One big change that critics sought wasn't on the table: subpoena power for the board.  That requires a vote of the legislature. The city council has made that a lobbying priority this year, but Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles said passage is unlikely.

"We have all voted to have subpoena power, and we aren't going to get it out of this legislative session," Lyles said. 

The revisions include a commitment to recruit more African Americans and Latinos. The 11-member board currently has four white women, two white men, four black men and one black woman.   Three are appointed by the mayor, five by the council, and three by the city manager.

The changes also call for face-to-face interviews with candidates, instead of relying solely on written applications.  The council also added a requirement for eight hours of training every year, which can include a ride-along with police. Currently, review board members are only required to have completed the Citizens Police Academy before being appointed.

Some council members want that eight hours to include mandatory implicit bias training. City staff pledged to include that Monday and to adapt future training to new needs. 

Assistant City Manager Ann Wall told the council during its dinner meeting earlier Monday that the also is improving transparency. Data on Citizens Review Board cases since its founding in 1997 and annual reports are now available on the board's website.  

The city has also hired staff to help citizens file complaints, and translated board materials into Spanish, Vietnamese and Arabic, Wall said. 

Meanwhile, the current review board meets Tuesday to hear an appeal from the family of Keith Lamont Scott. They're challenging CMPD's internal ruling that the officer who shot Scott last year was justified. 

June 26, 2017, City Council presentation on changes to the Citizens Review Board
Citizens Review Board web page at http://charlottenc.gov/

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.