Our Ashley Caldwell attended the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Boardmeeting at City Hall.
Confusion among the board
A large portion of the meeting focused on how the board members did not understand the ordinance. There was back and forth dialogue about whether or not the board had subpoena power. The board also presented a packet of emails from July 2015 between then- City Councilman Alan Crone and City Council attorney Allan Wade, and were confused as to how the ordinance was passed granting them subpoena power even after Wade presented information proving subpoena power not to be possible. Even after reading the section of the ordinance outlining their powers, they were still confused.
Possible Sunshine Law violation
Following the subpoena power discussion, the board discussed an issue brought forth by the Commercial Appeal last month, that their confidential deliberation may put them in violation of the state’s Sunshine Law.
To briefly sum it up, this law requires that any meeting containing more than one city appointed or elected official to be open to the public and the press. As the CLERB members are appointed by the city, the newspaper may be on to something. There is a clause in the CLERB ordinance that allows the board members to deliberate privately or close the meeting by a unanimous vote from the board members if the situation calls for confidentiality or the case pertains to sensitive information. The board discussed whether or not this still put them in violation of the Sunshine Law.
From these two conversations is where the big and somewhat frightening news derived.
City Council may want to create its own CLERB ordinance
Apparently, Councilman Worth Morgan told the board last month that due to confusion about whether the board is operating unlawfully under the Sunshine Law and if the ordinance wrongfully allows the board subpoena power, there is talk among some City Council members of amending the CLERB ordinance and creating a new ordinance themselves.
We probably don’t have to tell you how dicey this may become if the Council moves on this, or that it could result in an ordinance not reflecting the will of the public, which we collected in the first stage of our CLERB campaign.
CLERB considers first case
Aside from all the confusion, CLERB wrapped up their first case. The board voted to sustain the findings of MPD Internal Affairs. Their reasoning: there was information impossible to discover from all the evidence, and the hospital records state that no injuries (not even bruising or swelling) were observed on the complainant. They did decide to recommend a policy change to Juvenile Hall to prevent situations like this from happening in the future.
Hints of progress
CLERB investigator Arthur Robinson announced that CLERB’s independent website is in the process of being built now.
Also, the CLERB members are scheduling ride-alongs and civilian police academy training.
And in another bit of good news, CLERB members attended an executive meeting with all of MPD’s top brass. At this meeting, Interim Police Director Mike Rallings told the board members that he looks forward to working with them and does not see them as adversarial. Furthermore, Rallings agreed to provide the board a copy of MPD’s policy and procedures manual.
As you can see, we are going to have some work to do with the board to keep it on the path intended by the grueling process of amending the ordinance, but this will be manageable.
We will never shy away from advocating for the rights of the people. Please help us continue our criminal justice reform work by supporting the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center today.