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New Missouri law could impact Columbia’s Citizens Police Review Board


Columbia’s legal staff believes that a new bill signed by Governor Mike Parson could have a major impact on the Citizens Police Review Board. 

Senate Bill 754 was signed into law by Parson on Tuesday and includes provisions related to public safety. The bill will take effect on Aug. 28.

Section 590.653 of the bill focuses on civilian review boards, stating the act “provides that civilian review boards established by political subdivisions shall solely be limited to reviewing, investigating, making findings and recommending disciplinary action against law enforcement officers.” 

Donald Weaver, General Counsel of the Columbia Police Officers Association, said the CPOA is “delighted” with the bill and does not believe it will prevent CPRB from accomplishing its mission. He pointed to sections 21-44 of the Columbia's city ordinance which states the purpose of the CPRB is to provide “an external and independent process for review of actual or perceived misconduct by police officers thereby increasing the police department's accountability to the community and community trust in the police department.” 

“What has happened over the years is what I would call mission creep,” Weaver said.  “So what was initially designed to provide this independent review of perceived or actual complaints of misconduct has morphed into some more all-encompassing. I guess they've widened their mission. And what this bill does is it just gets them back on track.” 

However, CPRB Chair Doug Hunt wrote in an email that the city’s legal staff believes the bill “will make it unlawful for the CPRB to perform most of its present functions, including making any recommendation on police policy and holding regularly scheduled meetings or any meetings that are open to the public and the press.” 

“Senate Bill 754 creates a very tight box about what boards like the citizen's review board is able to do,” Hunt told ABC 17 before Wednesday’s CPRB meeting. “It eliminates most of the functions we presently serve.” 

However, Weaver argues that eliminating those functions is a good thing. 

“Pay attention to when people tell you it's going to hinder their current function. It is.  That's because their current function is way off the path from what the mission was intended to be,” Weaver said. “What this board has morphed into over time,  perhaps not intentionally by all, is it provides a sounding board to a small segment of our community that are really agenda-driven activists that are really trying to accomplish something well beyond what you'll find in black and white in the ordinance.  And they have kind of co-opted a lot of goodhearted, well-meaning folks kind of onto their mission, perhaps,  perhaps without their knowledge.” 

Hunt feels the police union’s relationship with the board has improved over time. 

“The board has been -- in the last year or so -- remarkably balanced in being either anti-police or pro-police. But just being in the business of continuous quality improvement. If there’s something that was really well done, we want to compliment it. If something needs to be improved, we want to suggest changes. “I think we hit a point of balance where, it’s a pity to be too restricted because we really have done a good job lately.” 

On Wednesday the review board unanimously voted on recommendations for the City Council to draft a plan on how to adapt to the bill. During the meeting, the CPRB said the plan should include modification of how residents submit complaints. 

Weaver spoke during Wednesday's meeting, arguing the CPRB was trying to find ways to work around the law. Board member Reece Ellis responded by saying his interpretation of the ordinance was “not in good faith.” 

“We can no longer hold public meetings to get input on police. We can no longer make recommendations about policies and procedures and training,” Hunt said. “It’s a very severe restriction on what we are able to do. Part of the challenge here I think for the city is how do we work around that small box.”

Check back for updates.

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


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