It appears the Mobile City Council may have reached a compromise on a citizen review board for the Mobile Police Department and will vote on the measure on Tuesday, Aug. 23.
The council’s public safety committee, on Tuesday afternoon, recommended the full council take up a compromise for the police citizens community relations advisory council proposed by Spring Hill College Professor Dr. Demetrius Semien.
The committee invited Semien, a sociology and criminology professor and member of Mobile Police Chief James Barber’s citizen advisory panel, to speak about the compromise that would allow for the council’s committee, but would limit the number of appointees and would require it to work alongside the chief’s panel, which is already in place.
Among the highlights of the plan, Semien suggested the proposed group consist of an appointee each from the seven councilors and one from the mayor. He added that members of the group should be mandated to attend meetings of the chief’s panel.
Semien recommended the members meet once a quarter with Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Barber and councilors.
He also recommended improvement to the way citizen complaints against the police are documented.
Councilman Levon Manzie, a co-sponsor of the proposed ordinance to create the board, said he didn’t agree with everything in Semien’s compromise document, but “there are aspects we can move forward with.”
“There is room for compromise,” he said, before leaving to attend another meeting.
Barber also had to leave before Semien presented his plan, but maintained his opposition to the council’s citizen review board idea. Barber said the panel he created has been in place for two years and has been successful. He added that two of the programs developed by the panel have received national acclaim. He also invited the councilors to the panel meetings.
The MPD is also accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA, Barber said. Through the CALEA process, MPD policies and procedures are heavily scrutinized.
Councilman Fred Richardson applauded the chief’s work with the panel, but said he doesn’t believe it addresses the same issues a citizen group would. Richardson said the review board would help start a dialogue between citizens and the police as well as help tamp down existing mistrust.
Manzie said while he also applauds the chief’s work with the panel, he’s still in favor of the proposed review board.