Charlotte’s Citizens Review Board, like all other review boards across the country, is entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of preserving the public trust by providing independent oversight of our police department. This is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly and should require the Board to have access to as much available information as possible, so it can make fully informed decisions. Currently, our Review Board ordinance only requires the Board to receive a case summary from the Chief of Police and nothing more. This limited amount of information does not afford the Board the ability to make fully informed decisions and necessitates our Board be provided more information on a procedural level.
In proposing a procedural change in our city’s Review Board ordinance, CRB Reform Now was guided by the mechanisms found in the ordinances of cities like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Virginia Beach. The review boards in those cities are given access to entire internal affairs files upon their involvement in any matter. Charlotte’s Citizens Review Board should be no different. In accordance with North Carolina’s state employee personnel records law*, CRB Reform Now has drafted a proposed ordinance that mandates the City Manager, with the assistance of the Chief of Police, to provide complete internal affair files to the chair of the Review Board upon the inception of any Review Board case. It should be noted that this disclosure of internal affairs files would not compromise any privacy interest because the Board is required to sign and abide by a confidentiality agreement, under two separate sections of the existing Citizens Review Board ordinance (Sec. 16-56(e) and Sec. 16-58(a)(5)). CRB Reform Now’s proposed ordinance, therefore, affords our Review Board with the information it needs to make a fully informed decision without compromising any privacy interest.
Furthermore, it is important that Board members approach the cases before them in a fair and balanced manner. This requires them to receive training in more than just police academy techniques. It also requires broader training in constitutional laws and procedures, peace officer laws, victim sensitivity, and the criminal justice system and process. The Charlotte School of Law recognized this fact and they have included provisions for such training in their June 4, 2013 report. CRB Reform Now concurs with the Charlotte School of Law’s assessment that our Review Board needs more balanced training. We have, accordingly, included a provision in our proposed ordinance that requires the City Manager to arrange yearly training by or through The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, an independent organization that specializes in police oversight agencies across the country, for sitting Board members.