Police review board ordinance introduced to council - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Police review board ordinance introduced to council

Roslyn Anderson - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) – Jackson city leaders are considering a proposal that may give citizens more power when it comes to handling complaints against police.

One councilman has worked with the ACLU and a Jackson State University professor to draft a plan.

Ward Three Councilman Kenneth Stokes said numerous residents have contacted him over the years complaining of police brutality and poor treatment.

He has proposed an ordinance to create a version of a police review board called the Independent Community Advocacy Review Process for Police Matters.

"Citizens come to us at ACLU and say there is no transparency. If I file a complaint I've never heard back. I'm afraid to file a complaint because I'm afraid of retaliation or why should I even bother to file a complaint because the police department will be investigating itself," said Brent Cox, with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The review board would consist of seven residents from each ward and an independent auditor.

Stokes worked with the ACLU and JSU criminal justice professor Dr. Jimmy Bell.

Bell studied the concept and similar agencies in other states to create the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance stated that the purpose includes establishing a procedure for conducting reviews of police complaints, policies and procedures.

It would also conduct community outreach thereby strengthening avenues for positive interaction between police and the public.

The last purpose said it would provide a mechanism to create transparency.

"The complaints we're receiving now are really basically they're saying it's going into a black hole and nothing is being done, and this will give the citizens an opportunity to see that their complaints are followed up," said Councilman Stokes.

Police officials said they have not received documentation of how the review process would work and feel that it would duplicate the Civil Service Commission comprised of civilians.

According to law enforcement the Civil Service Commission reviews the disciplinary actions against officers and has the authority to overturn disciplinary action taken by the police chief.

JPD Chief Rebecca Coleman said all complaints against officers filed since she has taken office have been investigated.

"After an investigation has been lodged against our officers and the investigation has been completed whether it was sustained, not sustained, unfounded or exonerated, that complainant will receive a letter from my office telling them the outcome of the complaint," said Chief Coleman.

The ordinance was introduced to the council Tuesday night.

No action was taken.

The council is expected to vote on the ordinance March 9.

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