Archive for Friday, January 24, 1992

S MOTHER HOPES REPORT BRINGS BETTER COMMUNICATION

January 24, 1992

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A Lawrence woman whose son was shot and killed by police in April said today that she hoped a peer review panel's report brought about by the fatal incident would lead to better communication between police and the community.

"I really can't say much because I haven't read the report or anything, but the main thing is that the 911 dispatcher she has to be involved as to what's going on," said Orene Sevier, whose son, Gregg, was shot by police after they were called to the Sevier home on April 21, 1991.

The review panel, composed of law enforcement representatives, lawyers and teachers, was formed after jurors in a coroner's inquest into Sevier's death ruled the shooting was justified.

The eight-member panel completed its report Jan. 13. It was given to Lawrence city commissioners Thursday.

COMMISSIONERS Shirley Martin-Smith and John Nalbandian said they have not thoroughly read the 22-page report, which contains several recommendations on how Lawrence police should develop more specific policies for communication with the public and responding to complaints.

"I just kind of glanced at it, but what I did see is that I think there's some confirmation of what we're doing right," Martin-Smtih said. "There's always room for improvement in the areas where we may need improvement.''

The report recommends that Lawrence police develop a "specific" policy for handling domestic disturbance calls and that it should develop more specific guidelines for dispatchers concerning the screening of calls and the information that needs to be transmitted to officers.

"Officers obviously need as much information as they can get when responding to a call," the report says. "Dispatchers, on the other hand, often encounter callers who resent being asked a lot of questions. The caller just wants police to respond. Therefore, it is important that the department periodically review and make the appropriate adjustments in this area."

MRS. SEVIER said she was encouraged that a recommendation for communication between dispatchers and officers was included.

In the April 21 shooting, there had been some communication problems between her and the dispatcher and between the dispatcher and the officers who arrived at the house, she said.

Mrs. Sevier called police to their home after her husband, Willie, saw Gregg sitting alone in his room holding a knife. Gregg Sevier was shot by two police officers who were sent to the house.

Victoria Thomas, general counsel at Kansas University and a member of the peer review committee, said she was pleased with the report.

"I think the committee was impressed with the professionalism of the department," she said of Lawrence police.

Thomas, who worked on the community relations section of the report, said, "I think what we're saying is, `Make it clear what you're saying to the public and tell people what's going on.'

"WE WANT them to keep telling the public what's happening regularly," she said.

The report notes police already are communicating with the public through daily press conferences and through community meetings.

Thomas said the report recommends that the department "ask itself if it is really" communicating effectively, and that the department should look for ways to enhance its public communication.

The report is scheduled for acceptance by the commission at its Tuesday meeting, but commissioners said the report probably first would be discussed at a study session.

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