The Lawrence Community Police Review Board on Thursday advanced a charter to create a new Community-Police Oversight Task Force.
The CPRB has long wanted greater authority than the scope that city law currently allows — a scope so narrow that since the board was created in 2018, it has not reviewed a single complaint. The current ordinance only allows CPRB members to review appeals of the police department’s decisions in complaints about bias-based policing.
Starting in 2020, at the direction of the Lawrence City Commission, board members began drafting an ordinance that expanded its duties. But an outside consultant’s review of the Lawrence Police Department, completed about a year ago, suggested that the CPRB and police department form a task force to determine the best way to move forward.
“The overarching purpose of a CPRB is to be the forum for two-way community communication and transparency on police practices, policy updates, and complaints,” the report from consulting group Citygate stated.
The new task force is intended to review the CPRB’s draft ordinance and assess the existing complaint policies, procedures and systems.
CPRB members discussed concerns they’ve heard from public commenters and community members about how long the process has taken. They spent roughly the first hour and a half of their Thursday meeting discussing a couple of line items in the task force charter, but ultimately voted to send it on to the City Commission.
Police Chief Rich Lockhart then shared the department’s 2021 use of force report and an update on complaints.
None of the board members raised any questions or concerns about officer truthfulness policies, which have spurred conflict recently between Douglas County-area law enforcement and the district attorney’s office.
CPRB members were copied on an email that District Attorney Suzanne Valdez sent to Lockhart following the April board meeting. During that meeting, Lockhart disclosed some details about officer complaints that LPD had received during the first three months of the year.
CPRB members noted that they appreciated the transparency, as Lockhart had given them more detail than they had ever heard about complaints the department had received.
Valdez, however, noted that under her office’s policies, prosecutors, too, should have been notified of those complaints so they could determine whether any of the complaints could render an officer’s testimony impaired.
Prosecutors are required to disclose certain evidence of officer untruthfulness or bias to defense attorneys. Cases can get dismissed or overturned because of those types of issues, among other potential outcomes.
Lockhart responded to Valdez’s email saying that he believed the uniform policy that all Douglas County-area law enforcement agencies adopted last month — which does not ask law enforcement to disclose as much of that potential evidence as the DA’s policy does — was “an example of the outstanding work we can do when we collaborate.”
“We feel like this is a positive outcome for our community, creating a model policy to comply with Brady Giglio,” Lockhart wrote. “It provides transparency and consistency as all Douglas County Law Enforcement Agencies are following the same policy.”
Here are the emails, followed by the 2021 use of force report and the Office of Professional Accountability’s roundup of complaints. Read more about these officer truthfulness issues and Brady/Giglio policies at this link.Emails-Valdez-Lockhart
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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.
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