Idea of Police Review Coalition discussed with City Council subcommittee
by Christine Bensen-Messinger, 4/29/2006
Although the Police Review Coalition is in the process of getting enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, organizers said after meeting with city representatives, the Eureka City Council may be willing to adopt an ordinance to create a review board, instead of making it go to a vote.
Coalition representative Xandra Manns said she, Greg Allen, an Arcata-based attorney, and Christina Allbright, a deputy in the Humboldt County Public Defender’s Office and chairwoman of the Redwood Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, who are spearheading the effort, met with Eureka City Manager David Tyson and Councilmembers Mike Jones and Chris Kerrigan Thursday afternoon.
“This is just our first meeting with the group and what I think the council subcommittee and myself were indicating is that if some modifications were made, the council would be interested in seeing it,” Tyson said.
“I felt the city Councilmenbers Chris Kerrigan and Mike Jones were really, really supportive and I felt David Tyson was supportive,” Manns said. “The main thing they wanted to see was that we didn’t just respond to complaints.”
The idea to start the coalition was first discussed seriously last year with representatives from the Human Rights Commission, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project and the county Green Party, which all joined together in support of the idea.
Despite the April 14 shooting death of Cheri Moore by police, Allen said the need for the coalition is not “event-driven” as it has been in the works for the past year.
Allen said, sometimes there are complaints and it is unfair to think that groups which are made up of representatives from various local law-enforcement agencies and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office could fairly investigate such claims.
“It’s simply not rational to expect anyone to investigate themselves, their colleagues or their friends,” he said in a coalition meeting Thursday evening. “This is not an us-versus-them issue, it’s an everybody issue.”
Allbright said the purpose of the coalition would not only be to review complaints, but that it could also review the department’s policies and procedures and make suggestions.
In addition, Tyson said it could also be beneficial for the review board to work as an advisory committee to the City Council by focusing on public safety, neighborhood policing, nuisance abatements and funding.
“We have a need in the city for a committee or commission that deals with some of these things and advises the council,” he said.
“We were looking at how we could broaden their scope.”
“I said I thought we could probably do something like that,” Manns said.
Tyson said he and the City Council subcommittee are reviewing information the coalition presented to them and may soon be meeting with it again. Eventually, he said the idea could be brought to the City Council for discussion and possible adoption.
If the review board is not adopted by the City Council, it will be on the November ballot and could become law as soon as January, Allen said.
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