Citizens Police Review Board meeting for the first time Thursday night

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 5:41 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The new Citizens Police Review Board is meeting for the first time on Thursday evening; the meeting begins at 5:30.

The Board will be independent, similar to the Ethics Board or Planning Commission. City Commissioners voted to create the board in June, and the official ordinance was approved in September.

In January, Commissioners appointed the nine members, and in February, they chose a chair.

The June vote came after 11 straight days of Black Lives Matter protests in Tallahassee, following nationwide protests against racial injustice in the summer of 2020.

As part of the protests, citizens called for some kind of review board in the City, responding to three officer-involved shootings.

City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox says the Board is designed to foster communication and trust.

“The purpose of this board is to look and see if there is a need for change in training, change in policy, or to look at whether there are some other things that we need to make adjustments to. This is not to determine the guilt or whether someone’s done something wrong or not; this is to look at how to make the process better,” said Williams-Cox.

Some in the community say this Board isn’t enough; the Tallahassee Community Action Committee wanted a Civilian Police Accountability Council instead.

They envisioned a group with budget oversight, access to contract negotiations, and hiring and firing power over the police chief; the new review Board does not have any of those powers.

However, Williams-Cox says she’s hoping everyone can come together on the current Board, at the very least as a starting point.

“It just shows what we can do when we have a group of dedicated citizens that come together to make things happen,” she said.

TCAC also called for the Board to have subpoena power; Williams-Cox says that’s not up to the Commission.

“Currently, the law does not allow subpoena power. And so I would encourage anyone who wants that changed to contact your local legislator,” she said.

WCTV also spoke with Board Member Edward Gaines before the meeting.

“In a span of 68 days, in Tallahassee, there were 3 police involved shootings,” said Gaines.

He commended the City Commission for creating the Board after a violent start to the summer.

Gaines was born and raised on the Southside of Tallahassee and says he’s honored to serve on the Board.

He says he’s hoping Thursday’s meeting covers two items: setting parameters for success, and learning the ropes of how the Board will operate.

“How will we define success and reaching our goals? That’s number one. And the other is to really understand the process, help the community understand the process and get the community involved,” said Gaines.

Gaines says the group will review internal affairs reports on use of force and investigate if the policies are consistent.

“After reviewing a case or cases, we can make recommendations to the Mayor and Commissioners or the Tallahassee Police Department, about revising or perhaps making additions to the current policies,” said Gaines.

He also spoke about what the Board will not be doing.

“The Board will not be involved in disciplining police officers; that is not our job.”

Although the Board doesn’t have subpoena power, the City’s new Inspector General position serves as staff to the Board, and he does.

“I feel that we are perhaps in a better place; there’s plenty of conversation going on,” said Williams-Cox, looking back at the summer of 2020. “I believe we will have positive outcomes. This has been asked for years. This may not be all everyone wanted it to be, but we’re going to start here, and let’s see how we evolve.”

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