Lawrence City Commission to consider pausing Community Police Review Board meetings

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City staff members are asking the Lawrence City Commission to halt meetings of the Community Police Review Board until a new work group can complete its review of how Lawrence Police Department complaints are currently handled.

The new Community-Police Oversight Work Group is intended to review the Lawrence Police Department’s current complaint process and make recommendations for the CPRB’s oversight of the complaint process. (Read more on the background at this link.) The group’s work was originally supposed to conclude in November, but the process has been delayed.

“To allow the members to focus on the important work of the Work Group, and to avoid over-extending the members who volunteer to serve in this capacity, we recommend postponing CPRB meetings until the Work Group completes its work and forwards its report to the City Commission,” Assistant City Manager Casey Toomay wrote in a memo in the commission’s meeting agenda.

As of the April 13 CPRB meeting, Toomay said the CPOWG was close to setting the first meeting date; however, one member who was serving on both boards had resigned the same day, leaving a vacant seat.

Asked for an update Friday, she said via email that the city’s consultant who is facilitating the CPOWG has been working with members to find a date “and we’re very close to announcing it, but I hesitate to do that prematurely.”

“I look forward to announcing what will be noticeable progress and we appreciate the community’s patience,” Toomay said. “We’re eager for the work to begin. We also believe the Commission will have the final appointment made before that time.”

Currently, city ordinance only allows CPRB members to review appeals of the Lawrence Police Department’s decisions in complaints about bias-based policing. Toomay’s memo states that if a valid appeal of that nature is filed, the city would schedule a meeting of the CPRB while the board is otherwise on pause.

Toomay said the city is always grateful to members of the community who volunteer their time to serve on advisory boards and commissions.

“We hope this resolution will make it easier for members of the CPRB who also serve on the workgroup to participate in the challenging work ahead,” she said.

The CPRB is a seven-member board that currently has three vacant seats. The mayor, currently Lisa Larsen, selects candidates to appoint to the city’s advisory boards, and they are approved with a vote by the Lawrence City Commission. The application to serve on the CPRB can be found at this link.

The resolution is on the City Commission’s consent agenda, which is a list of items that are generally considered routine and approved with one vote unless a commissioner or member of the public asks to pull an item for further discussion.

The commission will meet at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, May 9 at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. See the full meeting agenda at this link. The public may attend meetings in person, and they are livestreamed on the city’s YouTube channel.

The commission accepts written public comment emailed to until noon the day of meetings. People may provide public comment in person at City Hall or via Zoom. Register for the Zoom meeting at this link.

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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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