Citizens Police Review Board Looks at Use of Force Program

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COLUMBIA - The Citizens Police Review Board met Wednesday night amid circulation of a local petition to fire Chief Ken Burton. The petition boiled down to controversy surrounding the firing of Officer Rob Sanders for excessive force, more that 2 months ago.

The main presentation at the meeting focused on a police department program called IA Pro, which electronically tracks use of force reviews and reports.

An example of a report that would be tracked as it move through the system is,"Citizen calls a sgt. To complain about an officer being rude during call for service." 

Captain Dianne Bernhard and Lt. Krista Shouse-Jones explained, "There are more types of force than ever in the past," because there is more monitoring across the board. 

Burton said the more transparent the records are, the better.

It was clear at Wednesday's presentation that IA Pro is a work in progress, judging by the lack of hard numbers available. 

Some of the review board's questions left unanswered included, "What percentage of complaints are found to have merit?" "How much did the IA Pro system cost?" "How are numbers quantified and put into context to make necessary changes?" "What if someone wanted to withdraw a complaint?"

Bernhard and Shouse-Jones presented their own list of challenges with the electronic system, and data needed to go into the system:

  • People who wish to file a formal complaint but want to keep their complaint "closed" to the public.  

At this time, all complaints are open record because of a Columbia ordinance. James Martin challenged this ordinance at the meeting, saying it could become a safety concern if the complaint is an open record.  The presenters explained they've never had an issue come up, and said, "We don't want to destroy a record that reeks of public issues."

  •  People who file a complaint and will not speak to investigators or can't be located - Uses up a lot of resources. 

Another current Internal Affairs project is called Early Intervention System, which has been in the works for about two years. 

1) Early Intervention System: The Columbia Police Department will maintain an early intervention system to identify potential employee problems and offer assistance as needed.

a. IA Pro System has the ability to issue "alerts" based on the number of entries into the IA Pro system in categories.

"You would have thought this system of quantification would already be in the system," Roger Dowis said. 

b. The Internal Affairs Unit, once notified of an "alert" will send a note to the supervisor.
c. Determine if intervention is needed.
d. If needed, must come up with a written plan for that officer (specific and measurable objectives and actitivities).

Bernhard and Shouse-Jones said they hope to have data numbers from the system collected by Christmas.