New Valdosta Citizen Engagement Board to serve as connection between the police, community

Valdosta City Hall
Valdosta City Hall(WALB)
Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 8:44 PM EDT
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - The City of Valdosta has approved an ordinance to establish a Citizen Engagement Board.

The ordinance allows a group of elected community members to be a part of various city duties, including reviewing citizen complaints against the police department.

Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber said that early last year, he, along with the police chief, were working on updating an existing citizen engagement board platform. However, with the pandemic, it was put on hold.

The city hopes the ordinance will help create a positive relationship between residents and the police department.

“This is all about making that substantial effort to be accountable and transparent so our citizens know we are working hard to build trust between the community and our police department,” said Barber.

The review board was also part of the deal the city reached with Antonio Smith back in June.

Smith sued the Valdosta Police Department and city leaders following an excessive force incident in 2020.

As part of the settlement, the city agreed to create a board to oversee policies and make recommendations.

The diverse eight-member board must be from the community and not employed by the city.

For the inaugural class, the mayor and each council member chose a representative.

Duties the new board will oversee include reviewing alleged police misconduct and complaints, host monthly public meetings and educational programs, make recommendations to police policies, promote public awareness of police services and more.

Barber said he’s looking forward to having the group start within the next two weeks.

“It’s just another layer that we’ve added in to ensure that our citizens know that we’re open, we’re transparent, we’re accountable. We’re not perfect, but we do strive to be the best we can be,” said Barber.

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