Lawrence City Commission appoints 5 community members to new police oversight work group

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Community Police Review Board to meet Thursday

The Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday approved five community members to serve on the new Community-Police Oversight Work Group.

The group is part of an ongoing effort to revamp the city’s Community Police Review Board. Among its tasks, the work group will examine processes and revise how complaints against Lawrence police officers are handled and reviewed.

Each commissioner selected a community member to serve. According to the meeting agenda:

Mayor Courtney Shipley nominated Alex Kimball Williams;
Vice Mayor Lisa Larsen nominated Doris Ricks, who also serves on the Douglas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council;
Commissioner Amber Sellers nominated Jacqlene Nance-Mengler;
Commissioner Brad Finkeldei nominated Harrison Baker; and
Commissioner Bart Littlejohn nominated Jimmy Calderon.

Sellers said she has seen many communities do performative work when it comes to police accountability. She said she was proud of the process the city was undergoing because it’s not rushed, and she believes the work group members will provide invaluable insight.

“We have five incredible Lawrence citizens who have stepped up to the plate, who are willing to take the charge to be a part of reimagining what police accountability could look like in this community,” Sellers said.

Three members of the Community Police Review Board, two members of the Lawrence Police Officers’ Association (police union), and two members of the Lawrence Police Department command staff will round out the work group.

Once the CPRB chooses which three of its members will serve, the work group members should be able to start moving forward on what has become a two-plus-year slog for CPRB members and others.

Members of the CPRB have long wanted greater authority than 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 drafted an ordinance that expanded their duties. But an outside consultant’s review of LPD, completed in May 2021, suggested that the CPRB and police department form a task force to determine the best way to move forward.

The CPRB in May approved a project charter to create the new Community-Police Oversight Work Group, and the city commission approved the plan in June. The work group will review the CPRB’s draft ordinance and assess the existing complaint policies, procedures and systems. 

Assistant City Manager Brandon McGuire said during Tuesday’s meeting that he believes the group will take a facilitative, collaborative approach. He said he anticipates that meetings will be open to the public.

CPRB members plan to select the three who will serve on the work group during their next meeting, set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11.

In other business, board members will receive the Lawrence Police Department’s annual report to the Kansas attorney general’s office, which states that one complaint of bias-based policing received between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022, was exonerated. They will also hold an executive session (meaning behind closed doors) to discuss security measures, “the public discussion of which would jeopardize such security measures,” according to the agenda.

See the full CPRB meeting agenda at this link. Register to join the meeting via Zoom at this link. It will also be livestreamed on the city’s YouTube page.

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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.

Related coverage: Lawrence Community Police Review Board

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