As a way to ensure public confidence in the Sarasota Police Department, the temporary Police Advisory Panel will discuss creating a permanent civilian advisory board to review complaints against police officers.
Peter Graham, an international anti-corruption consultant and member of the police panel’s advisory committee, submitted his first report, which detailed his idea for the civilian advisory board and a new office within the police department. The Complaints Against Police Officers sole purpose would be to receive and investigate complaints against the Sarasota Police Department.
“It’s an internal police reorganization,” said Graham. “(In the future) every complaint received must be forwarded immediately to CAPO.”
The Police Advisory Panel was formed to review police-department policies after the mishandled investigation of a policy-brutality complaint. It has only three months remaining in its six-month lifespan.
In the current review process, several managers review a complaint as it makes its way up the chain of command to the chief of police. Graham believes that process leaves the public out of the loop, which breeds suspicion about whether it was handled properly.
At the end of the investigation, the complaint report would be turned over to the civilian advisory board.
“I think this gives the public the confidence their complaints will be heard,” said Barbara Langston, panel member. “This is exactly what we’re looking for.”
Panel member Dan Bailey questioned if the proposed changes would make a difference.
“If a complaint is found to have no merit, the complainant will be still be aggrieved,” he said.
Advisory committee member Ernie Scott said a cure for that would be to have citizens on the CAPO going back to their communities and telling them that they personally reviewed the complaint but determined that it had no merit.
Graham will now take his proposal to Police Chief Peter Abbott for a discussion, and the Police Advisory Panel will debate its merits at its March 5 meeting.
CIVILIAN ADVISORY BOARD
Peter Graham suggests the civilian advisory board be made up of police and city employees and private citizens, including:
• Chief of police
• State attorney
• City manager or representative
• Media representative
• Civil rights/minority-group representative