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Charlotte law prof to discuss report on Citizens Review Board

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

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    The presentation by Charlotte School of Law Professor John Huber starts at 7 p.m. Sunday at Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, 234 N. Sharon Amity Road, Charlotte.



A Charlotte School of Law professor will discuss on Sunday the school’s report on the Citizens Review Board, which investigates allegations of police misconduct but has never ruled against the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

The report that Jason Huber will talk about includes suggested reforms based on research of more than 60 models of civilian oversight across the nation. The presentation is sponsored by the North Carolina branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The law school has been identified as one of three stakeholder groups that will meet with a task force looking at ways to improve the board, which came under public and political fire this year.

The task force, which includes members of the Citizens Review Board and the city’s Community Relations Committee, also plans to meet with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police leaders and a coalition that has advocated for strengthening the board. The task force, which has scheduled two meetings for the general public, also allows people to submit suggestions online.

In 16 years, citizens have filed 79 complaints about police misbehavior with the Citizens Review Board. But a Charlotte Observer investigation showed that the 11-member volunteer board, after meeting behind closed doors, first with the citizens, then with the police, has voted to dismiss almost every case without holding a hearing.

At an April meeting attended by dozens of sign-waving residents, the city council voted to examine the mandate and powers of the CRB, a decision that could ultimately give residents a better chance of proving that they’ve been victims of police misconduct. Next month’s community forums are the first major step in that process. People also can submit recommendations online.

People who feel they’ve been victims of police misconduct can appeal to the CRB if they are not satisfied with the results of a CMPD investigation into their complaints. But residents who appeal to the review board must meet an unusually high standard of proof before the CRB will hold hearings on their allegations of police misconduct.

The board has only held four hearings in 16 years. After each hearing, the board ruled in favor of the police.

The Citizens Review Board has little authority. It cannot take disciplinary actions against police officers or award damages to citizens. Board members can only advise the police chief and city manager if they believe CMPD’s disciplinary decisions were serious mistakes.

In a memo to thecouncil, Chief Rodney Monroe said he doesn’t think the makeup or powers of the board need to be changed. He has told the Observer that he believes his department does a good job of policing itself and that the CRB has been responsible for department policy changes that have held police more accountable.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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