The Police Advisory Panel is continuing to explore the possibility of recommending to the City Commission the creation of a permanent citizens committee to review complaints against police officers.
The group held a long conversation last night with the head of the Civilian Police Review Committee of St. Petersburg to see how his program works.
Lendel Bright told the panel the CPRC was formed in 1991 after civil unrest in the city. The committee comprises 14 volunteers who review completed internal-affairs investigations of complaints against police officers.
“It’s been very effective in improving the police/community relationship,” Bright said.
He told Police Advisory Panel members the committee’s work has reduced the number of citizen complaints against the police — from 300 to 400 in 1991 to 74 last year.
However, when prodded by panel members, Bright could not point to a specific reason why the numbers have dropped.
In fact, Peter Graham, an adviser to the Police Advisory Panel, said it’s pretty common that civilian review boards get an initial burst of complaints when it is first formed, but then the numbers decline in subsequent years.
The panel has three more biweekly meetings before it has to make a recommendation to city commissioners on how to improve the police department.
Chairwoman Susan Chapman made it clear a civilian review board is one possible recommendation.
“We like a lot in the St. Pete program,” she said.
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