Lawrence’s Community Police Review Board did not actually review its first appeal of a complaint six months ago, the police chief said during Thursday’s meeting.
The current ordinance that lays out the CPRB’s duties only allows CPRB members to review appeals of the Lawrence Police Department’s decisions in complaints about bias-based policing.
Board members have long wanted greater authority than the ordinance currently allows — a scope so narrow that from the time the CPRB was formed in 2018 until Sept. 8, 2022, the board had not reviewed a single appeal of a complaint.
During that September meeting, the board adjourned into an executive (closed-door) session for about 90 minutes “to review an appeal from a decision involving a complaint of alleged bias-based policing brought against a city employee.” Then-CPRB Chair Jenny Robinson said afterward that “We determined that the complaint was not related to racial or other bias-based policing, and is not under the purview of the CPRB.” Robinson said that under the city’s ordinance, the CPRB is to be provided a copy of the complaint file in its entirety. “While most of the files were, not all were presented. There are no other entities within the city that they may appeal the decision of (the Office of Professional Accountability) through. We would like to direct the city staff to send a letter with the statement to the city manager.”
But on Thursday, Chief Rich Lockhart told the board, “That was a complaint to give you guys an example of what a complaint file looks like.”
“It wasn’t an actual appeal,” Lockhart said. “That was a former employee. When you reviewed it, he had retired. The intention was to give you guys an idea of what the complaint file looks like, what the process looks like.”
“It was presented to us as an item to review, and it took a substantial amount of our time,” CPRB Vice Chair Jordan Bickford responded. “… If that was a training exercise, it should have been presented as such, so that we could decide how to use our time.”
New members, more turnover
The board welcomed two new members, Greg Tempel and Brenda Clary.
But CPRB Chair James Minor said he must step down because of family health issues and travel obligations. He said he wanted to finish out his partial term, which was set to run through Aug. 31, but he did not think it would be feasible.
Minor joined the board in April 2022. He will be the seventh board member since February 2022 to step down before the prescribed end of his term.
The seven-member board already had one vacancy. The mayor, currently Lisa Larsen, selects candidates to appoint to the city’s advisory boards, and they are approved with a vote by the city commission. The application to serve can be found at this link.
There was no discussion Thursday about the Community Police Oversight Work Group, other than a brief mention by a member of the public giving comment.
The new group — intended to review the process of how complaints about the Lawrence Police Department are currently handled and assess an ordinance drafted by the CPRB that would expand its ability to review complaints — was long delayed and finally supposed to start meeting in late January.
Its first meeting was postponed and has not yet been rescheduled as there have been questions over its membership. It may end up being further delayed, as Minor was one of three CPRB members who planned to serve on the CPOWG.
The Community Police Review Board meets at 6 p.m. on the second Thursdays of each month. Its next meeting is set for April 13.