DeKalb City Council considers civilian police review board

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The DeKalb City Council considered adding a Civilian Police Review Board.

Kierra Frazier, Managing Editor

DeKALB – The City of DeKalb could have a Civilian Police Review Board in the incoming future after council members gave the green light to create an ordinance for an official vote on the review board.

The idea of implementing a Civilian Police Review Board follows calls for police reform in the DeKalb community and in the nation after the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020. DeKalb residents recommended a citizens advisory board on police and community relations to be established last June. 

City Manager Bill Nicklas drafted a version of the potential Civilian Police Review Board for Monday’s City Council meeting. The board would be comprised of five DeKalb residents who would be appointed by the DeKalb mayor and approved by the City Council, according to the Aug. 9 City Council agenda.

Each board member would serve a two-year term and will be a diverse makeup of DeKalb residents. The board would hold public meetings “no less than six times per year,” the agenda states.

The purpose of the board would be to review closed police investigations in all “use of force” cases and make recommendations to the police department, according to the agenda. The findings of the board will also become part of the city’s public records. 

“A lot of thought went into this; a lot of people had opinions about which way we might go,” Nicklas said. “There are other models out there, and we thought this fit our community. We’re aiming for something that fits the community, that is our focus day in and day out.”

Nicklas said he hopes to create an official ordinance for the Civilian Police Review Board for the second City Council meeting in August or the first one in September. 

DeKalb resident Frankie DiCiaccio said the proposal suggested Monday night for the board isn’t holding police officers accountable but rather the city making an effort to be transparent. 

“This is also very much a question of momentum,” DiCiaccio said. “Nationally, we have experienced momentum leading us to this moment, and my biggest fear is that we are squandering it on something that does not fundamentally shift oversight. It is really frightening that we might give the illusion of progress, and everyone will sit back, and then something will happen. That’s my fear.” 

DeKalb Police Chief David Byrd said the police department embraces the idea of a review board and hopes residents on the review board have the proper training in a civilian police academy that offers scenario-based virtual training. 

“We look forward to it,” Byrd said. “We just want to make sure that the training is in line with the training that we go through, within the department, it’ll give them a real snapshot of what it is to be a police officer in this world we live in today.” 

Byrd also said the board needs to be extremely careful when it comes to false complaints and those ruining an officer’s career.

“I believe that there should be a component in the process so that there will be consequences for a false report on an officer or a false narrative on an officer,” Byrd said.

Many council members spoke out in favor of the idea of the review board at Monday’s meeting.

“Some people say it doesn’t go far enough, but I think it’s a great first start, and I think it’s something that we should absolutely begin; we can always tweak it later,” Fifth Ward Alderperson Scott McAdams said.

Mayor Cohen Barnes said he’s in support of the board and loved the transparency aspect the board serves the community. 

“It’s a start, and we can adapt and change and modify over time as it suits the DeKalb community, so I am in full support of this,” Barnes said. “I’m really glad that we’ve got this before us, and I look forward to getting the citizen review board together and getting this in place.”