MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed took a first step Tuesday toward the creation of a civilian review board to monitor activities involving Montgomery police. The idea was born out of the protests that followed the death of George Floyd, the man who died in police custody in Minnesota.
The mayor presented a proposed referendum at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. He says he first discussed the idea with peaceful ‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters in Montgomery earlier this year.
“It’s important that the police have the trust of the community and vice versa,” he said.
The board would examine complaints about the behavior of police and then make recommendations to the mayor and/or police chief. But Mayor Steven Reed told council members the city must also take into account the behavior of citizens, including police protestors.
“No one should ever live in fear, whether that is from perpetrators who are not protesting in peaceful and proactive ways or whether that’s from law enforcement,” the mayor explained.
“I want to be clear because in these polarized times, too often news reports, social media posts and dialogue, make this a binary issue -- it’s either this or that,” the mayor went on to say. “It can be ‘both-and.’ It doesn’t have to be ‘either-or.’”
The board would consist of 13 unpaid residents appointed to serve 5-year terms by the mayor and members of the City Council. After investigating complaints, the board could then make recommendations for further action. The mayor and/or the police chief would have the final say.
According to Reed, the board would provide an important voice for the people. He says he’s hopeful the idea will prevent the kinds of controversies we’ve seen in other cities from happening here.
“In this defining moment, not only for this city, but for this nation, we want to make sure we are leading the way as opposed to being reactive and waiting on another tragedy,” said Reed.
The City Council will accept public feedback about the proposal before voting on it. Here is the mayor’s draft resolution:
CIVILIAN REVIEW BOARD
Section 1. Purpose of the Civilian Review Board
(A) The purpose of the Civilian Review Board (“the Board”) is to help make the Montgomery Police Department (“MPD”) practices and conduct as fair and safe for all residents.
(B) This impartial body of citizens serves to help ensure the highest level of equality and dignity under the law for all people by providing a voice to citizens of the Montgomery community to have a direct say in the way they are governed.
Section 2. Board Members
(A) The Board is composed of thirteen (13) members, nine of whom shall be appointed by the City Council per city council district, and four members of the Board shall be appointed by the Mayor.
(B) Appointed members shall serve a term of five (5) years, and not more than one (1) member’s term expires each year.
(C) An appointed person shall not serve more than five (5) years consecutively as a member of the Board.
(D) The City Council and the Mayor shall not remove appointed members of the Board except for cause.
(E) Vacancies in positions shall be filled by the respective Council Member or Mayor for the unexpired term, in the same manner as the initial appointment.
(F) All members of the Board must be residents of the City of Montgomery.
(G) The Board shall elect a chairperson and vice chairperson annually. A member of the Board may not serve consecutive terms as chairperson.
(H) The Board shall appoint a voluntary Board Secretary to record minutes of the meeting.
(I) Unless required by state law, elected members shall not be entitled to salaries, retirement benefits, health benefits or other fringe benefits.
Section 2. Meetings
(A) The Board shall meet at the call of its chairperson, but shall meet at least twice per month, and as needed when determined by the chairperson to ensure timely action on a matter.
(B) The Board must have a quorum of six (6) members present to conduct business.
(C) The Board shall vote on all recommendations and actions it takes, with a majority needed for approval.
Section 3. Duties of the Civilian Review Board
(A) To act in an advisory capacity and make recommendations to the Chief of Police and Mayor regarding policies, procedures, disciplinary actions and citizen complaints involving the Montgomery Police Department.
(B) The Board shall be entitled to utilize and work with the staff of City Investigations to carry out its duties.
(C) The Board shall:
1. Advise and make recommendations to the Chief of Police and the Mayor on rules, regulations, and policies pertaining to the conduct of MPD and its police officers.
2. Make annual recommendations on the MPD budget.
3. Receive briefings from City Investigations about all complaints concerning the operation of MPD and individual officers.
4. Make recommendations to the Chief of Police and the Mayor on whether disciplinary action shall be taken on each complaint, and if so, recommend appropriate action based on existing city guidelines, policies and procedures.
5. Provide quarterly reports to the Mayor, the City Council, and the public on MPD’s activities, including the handling of crime and complaints.
6. Make recommendations to the Mayor, the City Council, and the public of ways to improve police-community relations and police practices.
(D) The Board—through City Investigations and in accordance with their policies and procedures—may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony, and require the production of evidence.
Section 4. Complaints
(A) There shall be a public system to report allegations of police misconduct, as well as a public system to make recommendations on how to improve police-community relations and policing practices.
(B) Complaints and findings of each investigation concerning MPD shall be provided to the Board.
(C) The Board shall vote by majority on disciplinary recommendations to make on each complaint.