Community Police Review Board moves forward with draft changes that would increase review powers

photo by: Screenshot/City of Lawrence

The Lawrence Community Police Review Board meets over video conference Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020.

The Lawrence Community Police Review Board has taken a first step in strengthening its review powers over complaints against police, including the ability to review all complaints filed by community members.

As part of its meeting Wednesday, the board voted to advance various changes to a working draft of potential revisions to the ordinance that lays out the board’s powers and how it operates. Because of the way it is structured, the board currently is only allowed to review complaints against police that involve racial and other bias, and only if someone appeals the police department’s decision within a certain time frame.

One key aspect of the working draft that the board voted to advance Wednesday dealt with the type of complaints that the board reviews. The board voted to advance revisions that would expand its review beyond racial and other bias-based complaints, and instead include any complaints made against police by members of the community. Board member Jane Gibson said that especially given the lack of data currently available about complaints, reviewing all complaints rather than only complaints designated as bias complaints would help the board to understand what policing issues exist.

“We can’t choose against certain kinds of misconduct, we can’t choose against certain kinds of people,” Gibson said. “We need to be broad enough that we can understand what’s going on out there, gather the data, and have a handle on this so that we can support the needs of the community as well as the needs of the police in order to promote these good relationships.”

The board has previously described itself as a “rubber stamp” for the police department. As the Journal-World previously reported, the board, which the Lawrence City Commission set up two years ago, has examined none of the complaints made against police because of the limitations on its review powers. Currently, a division of the police department investigates complaints, and all bias complaints were determined to be unfounded and no appeals have yet been made.

Other important aspects of the draft would allow the board to review all complaints, not just those that are appealed. In addition, the board would have the ability to conduct a preliminary review of complaints, accept a statement from the complainant, and to review completed complaint investigations. If deemed appropriate, the board could request an independent investigation.

The city legal department is going to conduct a final review of the board’s draft changes to the ordinance, which will then be formally released to the community for input. Once the board finalizes its recommended changes, that recommendation will go to the City Commission for ultimate consideration.

Community Police Review Board 09/30/20


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