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"Let's put it this way," he adds, "It's operating the best that a Citizen Review Board can operate."
But the current model — which, arguably, gives the board more power than other city's Citizen Review Boards — isn't the problem. The problem is that given the choice between siding with a Citizen Review Board or his officers, the chief is usually going to choose the latter.
As CRB member Montague says: "It's like saying the engines on the Titanic are working fine."
It's hard to float a solution to the CRB's predicament. One option is to rely on a weapon even stronger than subpoena power: liberally applied public pressure. Considering the amount of scrutiny surrounding the Eagle case, the board's relevance — and its viability going forward — could very well come down to whether the department accepts the board's recommendations in relation to that botched raid.
Last September, the board sustained allegations that 24 officers who participated in the 2009 raid (which was carried out with the intent to discover men using drugs and having sex in a gay bar) had unlawfully detained and used abusive language toward the Eagle's patrons. But the board held off on recommending punishment until its investigators could conduct a study to determine to what extent supervising officers were culpable.
During a nearly two-hour meeting in January, the board came up with the following suggestions for how the department should handle the Eagle raid: three-day suspensions for rank-and-file officers, and written reprimands and additional Fourth Amendment training for most of the supervisors. The board decided that one of those supervisors, Sgt. Kelly Collier, who they ruled had essentially lied by repeatedly telling investigators he "couldn't remember" basic details of the raid, should receive a 30-day suspension without pay.
Montague had attempted to take a harder line than his cohorts. "I move that he be terminated," he said at the meeting. No one seconded the motion, even though the disciplinary chart the board uses as a reference (the same one used by APD's Office of Professional Standards) recommends termination for dishonesty.
Because a federal court order has required that the APD reinvestigate officer conduct in the Eagle case, Chief Turner has said he'll hold off on responding to the board's recommendations until that investigation is complete. In the past, Beamud says, Turner simply rejected the board's recommendations if his department was still investigating an incident, so his lack of response might be considered a sign of progress.
In any case, the board, the public and the Eagle patrons who lodged complaints are waiting to see what Turner will do, and whether the punishment he metes out — if punishment is meted out at all — reflects the board's decisions.
If it doesn't, the board might have to come to terms with the fact that, as Councilman Martin unwittingly implied, it has been reduced by the cops to little more than a sounding board — a forum in which citizens can air their grievances and hope the catharsis of the process is enough to appease them.
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