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For the Record

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In wake of tragedy, time to improve Citizens Review Board

From Matt Newton, spokesperson for CRB Reform Now:

Last week’s events were both tragic and heartbreaking. The untimely death of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell has left our city reeling and will test our resolve. This is a difficult time and my thoughts are with the Ferrell family and the families of the officers involved.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Charlotte has experienced such loss and uncertainty. Two similar incidents, in which unarmed Charlotteans lost their lives, occurred in 1996 and 1997. It was in the turbulent aftermath of those tragedies that our City Council created a Citizens Review Board to restore the public trust.

At that time, the Citizens Review Board held the promise of true independent oversight of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. The intent was to instill a bond of trust between the police and all members of the community through an alternative system of accountability, as well as help prevent the 1996 and 1997 tragedies from ever happening again. However, questions have arisen as to whether the Citizens Review Board, in its current form, has the ability to act effectively. As we enter the aftermath of our current tragedy, it is time to reflect and reform.

Over the past eight months, I have been a part of a group of community-based organizations advocating for reform of our Citizens Review Board. Our group, CRB Reform Now, has worked tirelessly to outline proposals for strengthening the Citizens Review Board and for saving our city money in the process.

In July, we proposed a comprehensive plan that would reinforce our police department’s internal affairs process, improve overall transparency, and restore full faith and confidence. The plan contained recommendations specifically geared towards empowering the Citizens Review Board and creating an effective system of fairness for citizen concerns. Consequently, the plan’s intent is to create a more modern, cost effective and well-trained police force that we can all be proud of.

Our proposals are currently awaiting City Council approval and are timely. I applaud the police department’s decision to charge Officer Randall Kerrick and release the 911 audiotapes in Mr. Ferrell’s case. I also look forward to further disclosures in the near future, with the understanding that trust is built through transparency. In light of this most recent tragedy, now is the time to accomplish our common purpose of reforming the Citizens Review Board together.

Our City Council has the power to create an effective Citizens Review Board that fulfills the promise of 1997, and will be meeting Monday at 11:45 a.m., in room 280 of the Government Center, to consider final recommendations for reform. Please attend if you are able or visit crbreform.com to learn more about the Citizens Review Board and CRB Reform Now’s proposals.

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