Sunday, May 2, 2004

Changes May Be in Store for Rules on Police Oversight

By Lloyd Jojola, Journal Staff Report

Changes could be in store for the ordinance that governs police oversight.
"We needed more teeth," Police Oversight Commission Chairman Joe T. Gutierrez said. "Not only to oversee but to make sure that the process works."
The City Council is scheduled at its 5 p.m. Monday meeting to consider the bill to amend the existing ordinance.
The bill, as it was initially proposed, has forced discussion between the police department, officers union, the oversight commission and the independent review officer. Those groups have suggested additional changes.
The oversight commission and the independent review office were created under a bill passed in 1998 to enhance civilian oversight of the city police department.
"It is absolutely critical for these amendments to pass to give the POC the authority that goes along with the responsibility that the city has placed on them," said Jay Rowland, the city's independent review officer.
According to a council analysis, one change would clarify that, when the review officer and chief of police agree on findings, the findings would be considered final. In addition, the findings could not be changed without first notifying the POC, review officer and individuals involved in the complaint.
The change addresses a situation that arose when Police Chief Gil Gallegos changed some findings that were previously decided on by the review officer and POC, the analysis states.
"Without making this change, findings can be changed for any reason by the chief and are never really 'final,' '' the analysis reads.
Gallegos said there have only been two instances in which that has occurred, "and they were not citizen complaints, they were internal complaints."
Gutierrez said the biggest issue of contention seems to be an amendment that would require findings of the review officer to be placed in the police officer's record.
Another amendment deals with disagreements between the oversight commission and chief, Rowland said.
"The POC wanted an ability to resolve that by taking it to the (city's chief administrative officer)," Rowland said.

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