Lawrence City Commission approves new Community Police Review Board ordinance

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Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday voted to expand the scope of the Community Police Review Board’s duties.

City staff members prepared the new ordinance following years of work and delays in modifying the role of the CPRB. The process was intended to strengthen the board as well as balance the interests of community members, police officers and the city.

The current ordinance that outlines the CPRB’s duties only allows members to review community members’ appeals of LPD’s decisions in complaints about bias-based policing. That’s such a limited scope that the board members have not reviewed any actual appeals since the CPRB was formed in 2018.

The ad hoc Community-Police Oversight Work Group was tasked with evaluating the process to handle complaints against the Lawrence Police Department. They were asked to make recommendations for the complaint process and the CPRB’s oversight of those complaints.

The biggest change in the ordinance is that the board’s duties will now include reviewing appeals of all Level 1 and Level 2 complaints. Those are defined in the draft ordinance as follows: 

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“Examples of misconduct that would support a Level 1 Complaint include criminal conduct, corruption, dishonesty or untruthfulness, Racial or Other Bias-based Policing, the use of excessive force, an unlawful search and seizure, a false arrest, a violation of civil rights, and similar misconduct.”

“Examples of misconduct that would support a Level 2 Complaint include inappropriate conduct that, while a violation of general orders, policies, or procedures of the Department, would not constitute a Level 1 Complaint.”

The new ordinance also codifies that the board should receive reports from LPD regarding complaints. Chief Rich Lockhart started giving the CPRB regular reports on complaints in 2022, shortly after he began in his role. Under the draft, the CPRB would also review any race-based trends in the data available from complaints received. 

Board members would go through training on racial or other bias-based policing, fair and impartial policing, law enforcement use of force, deescalation techniques, diversity, equity and inclusion, the complaint and appeals process, and the Kansas Open Meetings Act and Kansas Open Records Act within 90 days of joining the CPRB under the draft.

The ordinance also aims to increase public knowledge of how to file complaints and how to appeal the police department’s disposition of a complaint if the complainant feels it is needed.

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The commission unanimously approved the changes, with a few tweaks.

Commissioner Amber Sellers asked that the board be tasked with reviewing trends in all data collected on complaints against police, rather than only racial data. The commission also agreed they would like to clarify that the police chief will provide reports on complaints to the CPRB at every meeting. They also asked to change the time span for board members to receive training to be reduced to 45 days.

Read more about the changes to the ordinance at this link.

It was not immediately clear Tuesday when the Community Police Review Board will resume meeting. It has been on hold since the city created the Community-Police Oversight Work Group, and its last meeting was in April 2023. The board has typically met on the second Thursdays of the month.

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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

Lawrence City Commission approves new Community Police Review Board ordinance

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Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday voted to expand the scope of the Community Police Review Board’s duties.

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