Lawrence’s new community police review board to hold first meeting

photo by: Nick Krug

A Lawrence police vehicle is pictured in a file photo from December 2017.

Two years after the local chapter of the NAACP pushed for a more powerful public board to review complaints against police, the city’s Community Police Review Board will have its first meeting.

Board members have been appointed and the board’s first meeting will take place Monday. The board is scheduled to undergo training and sign confidentiality agreements, according to the board’s agenda.

The training includes information on legal search and seizure and state open meetings and open records laws, provided by Assistant City Attorney Maria Garcia. Assistant Attorney General Kate Carter will present information on racial and other bias-based policing and Lawrence Police Sgt. Dave Ernst will discuss the police department’s Office of Professional Accountability.

The board replaces the Citizens Advisory Board for Fair and Impartial Policing, which could only review summaries of complaints provided by the police department. The process to establish the revamped version of the board took longer than originally expected because of ongoing concerns that the new board’s review abilities were still too limited.

The new board can now accept police misconduct and bias complaints from the public, which it then forwards to the police department’s Office of Professional Accountability for investigation. The board will review the findings of bias investigations, in closed session, if the person who filed the complaint disagrees with the findings and submits a written appeal. The board’s recommendation regarding an appeal is forwarded to the city manager for consideration.

Last fall, the Lawrence City Commission voted to move forward with the creation of the board. However, in June, the commission delayed the final step of the process, citing concerns that the ordinance creating the board allowed the city to deny or limit the board’s access to police investigation files, audio recordings and body camera or patrol car video related to complaints.

At the time, Garcia said the city needed to reserve the right to decide on redactions to such material on a case-by-case basis because of privacy and liability concerns. Ultimately, the commission decided to establish the board and maintain the city’s broad discretion to redact materials provided to the board, but said it would like to come back in six months or a year to work with board members to improve the ordinance.

The Community Police Review Board will convene at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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