Tempe, AZ police chief backs citizen advisory review board FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 20 May 1999 05:45:48 -0700 (PDT)


If your commumnity has a citizen review board to monitor police, has the
board helped to reduce mistreatment of vulnerable citizens, such as
homeless people?

See related article below:

http://www.azcentral.com/sev/news/0504review.shtml

TEMPE POLICE CHIEF BACKS CITIZEN ADVISORY REVIEW BOARD

By Elvia Diaz
The Arizona Republic
May 4, 1999

Tempe's police officers may soon find themselves under greater scrutiny by
the public.

That's because Police Chief Ron Burns is asking the City Council's blessing
of a plan to create a citizen advisory board to review internal police
investigations.

Burns first brought up that idea more than a year ago. Now, after obtaining
suggestions from council members and the mayor, he is coming back to the
council with a proposed ordinance to create the citizen panel.

The panel, made up of 15 residents and two Police Department employees,
would examine all police shootings and incidents resulting in serious
injury, those requiring hospitalization or death.

Tempe's most recent police incident took place in March, when police Sgt.
John Schaper was wounded while fellow officers were arresting a homeless
man. The gunman was killed by police.

The citizen review board would automatically examine cases like the Schaper
shooting, Burns said.

"We need to open up," Burns said about the need of a citizen advisory
group. "We felt it was necessary to create the panel without being prompted
by the community."

In 1997, the city received 185 complaints against Police Department
employees, Burns said. Those complaints ranged from employees being rude or
damaging property to false arrests and excessive force by officers.

The department conducts its own investigations of complaints and then
prepares an annual report to the City Council, Burns said.

Panel members would review findings of Police Department investigations of
unsustained, unfounded or exonerated citizen complaints, when requested by
the person making the accusation.

Further, the panel would review any department incident at the request of
the chief.

After reviewing each case, the panel would either agree or disagree with
police findings and advise the police chief whether further investigation
was warranted.

When examining a police force incident, the panel would conclude whether
the excessive force was within department policy.

The panel could make recommendations to the chief on such things as
training programs and could offer suggestions on revising department
procedures.

However, the panel would not recommend or review disciplinary actions
against police officers. As police chief, Burns would have that power.

The 15 members of the advisory panel would be appointed by the mayor with
the consent of the City Council, while the police chief would designate the
two employees.

Councilman Joseph Lewis said he welcomes greater public input into city
police dealings.

"Typically, communities react to bad things," Lewis said. "But we're being
proactive here."

Vice Mayor Ben Arredondo and Councilman Leonard Copple said they also
support the proposed ordinance.

"It's a bit restrictive," Copple said. "The board will just review
investigations. I just don't know whether that would be enough."

Burns plans to ask the City Council this week to schedule two public
hearings in early June on the proposed ordinance.

END FORWARD

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