Advisory body seeks to police the police and do investigations
What if it happened to you?
Or, more importantly, someone you love?
What if you, or that someone you love, were suddenly on the receiving end of treatment by police which went well beyond the administration of justice?
Where would you turn? Where could you turn?
Those long-simmering questions in the public narrative have boiled over nationally after a summer of unrest.
They’re why the Morgantown/Kingwood National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been doing all that research in recent months.
Members of the local chapter of the NAACP have linked in past weeks with other human empowerment organizations.
They want to police the police.
The goal is to work with Morgantown City Council to form a citizen’s advisory and review board — which in turn would work independently on investigations stemming from any allegations of inappropriate behavior by the local police department.
That includes excessive force, verbal harassment, stop-and-search or any other prejudicial action in the course of rolling up to a scene or a subsequent arrest.
But don’t read “confrontation” into that, chapter president Jerry Carr said in a Zoom discussion session Wednesday evening.
The watchword for him is “cooperation,” he said.
Add “transparency,” said Rich Burks, who is chairing the chapter’s criminal justice committee that wants to create such a board.
Such boards, Carr said, are common fixtures on metropolitan police departments.
And such boards, Burks added, can be effective — not only because of transparency.
They’re effective, he said, because they add another layer to any internal review investigation a department may undertake in such a case where police methods are questioned.
And that layer of local voices could help any officer better understand the citizens for whom he’s been hired to protect and serve.
Any initial complaints would be made to the citizen board first, which would then turn them over to Morgantown PD, Burks said.
The review board wouldn’t interfere with any internal police investigation, he said.
And the board, ideally, would be deputized with power to do its own investigation.
While the state attorney general and at least one police union have weighed in on the constitutionality of forming such a board, Carr and Burks said Thursday night they hope common sense and simple courtesy will win out.
The idea, Carr said, is to keep both citizens and officers safe.
With the construction work underway, the chapter, meanwhile, is encouraging all the help and insights it can get.
You’ll find it online at morgantownnaacp.org.