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Grand Rapids City Commission moves to strengthen civilian appeal board

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Posted at 11:23 AM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-15 11:23:36-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids City Commission is supporting a “formal reimagination” of the nine-member civilian oversight board of law enforcement after examining its policy and general operations.

City officials made the announcement on Monday.

During last week’s Committee of Whole meeting, Brandon Davis, oversight and public accountability director, outlined the “Public Safety Alignment and Governance Report: Update and Implementation Plans” study his office undertook for the past year.

That review included recommendations for future operations of the Civilian Appeal Board, Community Relations Commission, Public Safety Committee and SAFE Taskforce.

Review of the civilian appeal board included “widespread engagement” with the community, city administration, police department personnel and union leadership.

City Commission policy 800-0 deals with police officers’ conduct during interactions with citizens and established the civilian appeal board.

The board reviews “complaints of use of excessive force, falsification and lying, civil rights violations, hostility, discourtesy, racial animosity or prejudice and other conduct unbecoming of an officer.”

The Office of Oversight and Public Accountability gave five recommendations regarding the board:

  • Implement mandatory onboarding and training for all civilian oversight board members 
  • Improve written reports to promote fairness and enhance the quality of board decisions 
  • Increase jurisdictional authority to align with best practices and to promote increased accountability 
  • Empower the board to make formal recommendations to elevate community voice in public safety operations 
  • Reimagine City Commission Policy 800-02 to be actionable, increase procedural justice and to reflect and ensure transparency 

CAB board members have the authority to implement some of the recommendations through existing policy, Davis said.

A reimagining of the board would include an 11-member OPA-led workgroup comprised of a representative from OPA, the city attorney’s office, Grand Rapids Police Department, American Civil Liberties Union, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, CAB, Urban Core Collective and four community members.

The tentative timeline begins immediately with the creation of the workgroup, the members of which will be chosen in December.

They will create an engagement strategy to ensure the community is heard throughout the process and meet over a four-month period to research best practices and procedures, draft policy and create engagement strategy for civilian oversight in Grand Rapids.

Work is expected to be completed in April, at which time the workgroup will give a final policy recommendation to the city manager and City Commission.