Police misconduct review board hopes to improve complaint process

by: Mark Becker Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Charlotte's City Council will get a chance to approve proposed changes to the citizen group that oversees cases of alleged police misconduct, and chances are they will be hearing again from people who said those changes don't go far enough.

The city's Council-Manager Relations Committee approved the changes Monday to the Citizens Review Board, which would make it easier for people with complaints against officers to get hearings and to get more information about the resolution of those cases.

The proposed changes come after critics pointed out that the Review Board has sided with the department in every single case since it was formed— 79 in all.

"The CitizensReview Board provides yet another check, because we all make mistakes. But in this area, we have to get it right," City Manager Ron Carlee told committee members and about a dozen people who attended the meeting hoping that the board would get more authority to investigate cases.

Carlee said he does not see a big problem with police misconduct in Charlotte but believes it is important to keep trust between police and the community.

He said the changes will help with that.

"Will these changes result in more findings for the complainants and more findings against the department? And the answer is, not necessarily," Carlee said.

It was some, but not all, of what critics wanted to hear.

"We are happy it's going to be before City Council at large, but there are still issues to be addressed," said Matt Newton, a Charlotte attorney who's been pushing for changes.

Newton said his group would like the board to have the authority to call officers to testify in hearings, and to be guaranteed access to the internal-affairs file of their investigation.

"The continuing issue is whether or not the entire internal affairs file will be handed over to the Citizens Review Board. Why not memorialize that into the ordinance?" he said.

Henry Gunn, a longtime resident of east Charlotte who attended the meeting, summed it up this way.

"We got some of what we needed but not all. ... It is progress, but we're not there yet," Gunn said.

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