(Washington, DC) Executive Director Philip K. Eure of the District of Columbia’s Office of Police Complaints (OPC) testified recently at a public hearing in Jackson, Mississippi, weighing in on that city’s debate over whether to establish a process for citizens to review complaints against the police. Eure is the immediate past president of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE).
Jackson’s city council held the hearing on January 28, 2010. Eure spoke at the invitation of the Mississippi chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has worked closely with the city council and a criminal justice professor at Jackson State University to draft proposed legislation.
Support has been building in the Mississippi state capital for establishing a form of police oversight following increasingly vocal complaints from the public of mistreatment by the police. Concerns about how those allegations are handled by the Jackson Police Department have also arisen.
Currently, the internal affairs unit of the police department investigates citizen complaints such as the use of unnecessary or excessive force while sworn supervisors handle less serious police misconduct allegations, including inappropriate language towards members of the public. Individuals can file a lawsuit if they are not satisfied with the complaint process.
In explaining how independent review of the police operates in Washington, DC, and around the United States, Eure urged the city to enact some type of oversight system. In addition, Eure addressed points made by the chief of police and an assistant chief of police. Testimony by these two police officials expressed skepticism about citizen oversight. Several members of the public also gave accounts describing their encounters with the police and how their subsequent complaints were not handled in a satisfactory manner.
On February 23, 2010, an ordinance was introduced in the city council that, if enacted, would establish an “independent community advocacy review process.” The citizen body, a first in Mississippi, would conduct reviews of police complaints, policies and procedures. The city council is expected to vote on the measure March 9.
For additional information on OPC, visit our website at www.policecomplaints.dc.gov.