Civilian Oversight Board Update
Following a two-year effort from ACoPP and local advocates about policing practices, Laramie City Council passed a resolution in June 2020 establishing their intent to improve the transparency, accountability, training, and procedures of the Laramie Police Department (LPD).
The resolution indicated that City staff would investigate civilian oversight boards, examine ways to improve interactions with the public and those who experience Mental Health Calls for Service, and find funding to expand training for officers.
City Council Meeting Updates
An update was provided on February 23rd with an overview of the progress made in the past 8 months:
- The Chief of Police attended a conference to gather information on civilian oversight boards. ACoPP had also provided a great deal of information on community oversight to the city manager, which we had gathered from attending NACOLE (National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement) conferences.
- LPD states that they have begun to build a relationship with one mental health care provider in town hoping it will shift policing surrounding mental health. It is unclear if the goal of this is to reduce police presence at mental health calls for service. The City also states that there have been extensive and ongoing discussions with the Mental Health Board.
- LPD continues to support public relations programs such as “Coffee with a Cop” and “Shop with a Cop.” We find these programs limited and far less important than transparency and oversight, as these programs demonstrate no real divergence from the current policing tactics, do not seek broad public input about policing in communities, and provide no avenue to restore public trust on a large scale.
- LPD states that they have partnered with Peak Wellness to sponsor Mental Health First Aid training for their officers in 2021; Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) was cancelled last year due to COVID-19.
ACoPP has supported a slow and deliberative process with time for public input, research, and education of the parties involved. It is imperative that we get the civilian oversight board done right.
We now seem to be on the cusp of a big step toward making the civilian oversight board a reality in Laramie, as the City has proposed a resolution to create an Ad Hoc Working Group for Police and Community to investigate and plan for civilian oversight.
During a special meeting on March 30th the City Council heard a mix of public comment regarding establishing the ad hoc working group. The Vice Mayor said she had some amendments to the resolution and Councilor Andi Summerville added that she did as well. Councilor Summerville proposed postponing the vote on the ad hoc working group so that she could review the information from prior to her time on Council and further develop her amendments. There is a special meeting on April 7th to discuss the resolution further.
Ad Hoc Working Group for Police and Community
The intended working group is to be made up of members of the community and law enforcement to begin developing a plan to design and implement a civilian oversight board.
21 total members
- 8 community/resident representatives (residents and social workers)
- 7 institutional representatives
(school district, University of Wyoming, mental health, etc.)
- 6 representatives from the current policing oversight structure
(city council, civil service commission, Chief of Police, city attorney, etc.)
- 2 LPD liaisons
(sworn police officer and police chaplain)
For a detailed breakdown, click here.
Note that this is a proposed resolution and has not been voted on.
While we think a working group is a step in the right direction, we are severely disappointed in the idea that law enforcement will be a part of this working group, as doing so perpetuates the current problem of the police policing the police. This board was intended to be different.
And because we believe in including the public’s feedback for these decisions, during the City Council working group meetings, ACoPP plans to host supplemental community forums to hear from you. Be on the lookout for those notifications over the next year.
We also hope that there will be public interest in defining the ad hoc working group’s composition, as well as participating in the working group.
Now Council needs to hear from you!
The effort to establish civilian oversight of police in Laramie has been years in the making. It is vital that City Council knows that the mandate from the public to implement a civilian oversight board is still there, and still urgent.
We are asking for your help! Voice your support for the next step in implementing a civilian oversight board by writing City Council to let them know you support the Working Group for Police and Community (WGPC).
Email the City Council ([email protected]) to voice your support for the creation of this ad hoc working group as a step along the path toward a community oversight board of our local law enforcement agency. We have identified key points below, but please create your email in your own words.
You can contact us with any questions you have at [email protected].
Your email should include three parts:
1. Say who you are.
Be sure to mention where you’re from in Laramie (or why the Working Group for Police and Community is important to you).
My name is ____, and I have been a Laramie resident for __ years.
2. Say what you want.
I’m writing today to ask you to continue to support Resolution 2021-18 to create an Ad Hoc Working Group for Police and Community.
3. Say why you want it.
This is where you can add a few sentences about why this matters to you. Be sure to mention what the Working Group for Police and Community and civilian oversight mean to you, and how you see them benefiting Laramie.
- The community has voiced its support of implementing a community oversight board. Therefore, if the City Council deems it necessary to create an ad hoc working group, one should be established to support the continuation of Resolution 2020-38 Policing: Transparency, Training, Procedures & Accountability, passed by the City Council in June of 2020.
- People who are subject to policing should have a say in how they are policed and should be represented in the Working Group for Police and Community (WGPC). Law enforcement should not be shielded from hearing what the public has to say about policing practices or how they could be improved.
- People who have been policed in an unjust or improper manner should not be expected to seek restitution through the agency that wronged them. Forming the WGPC is also the first step toward creating a civilian oversight board that can serve as an intermediary between the police and the community, opening more accessible channels for communication and improvement of our local policing.
- The Working Group for Police and Community (WGPC) should include a diverse cross section of Laramie’s population. The eight community representatives should include at a minimum people who have been policed, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and people involved in the mental health system. Without proper inclusion, we risk creating a working group that does not represent the best interests of the whole community.
- The WGPC is an important first step towards community oversight of local law enforcement by residents. There is no one-size-fits-all civilian oversight board, and this group will help gather information for what this board will look like in our community.
- Our residents’ constitutional rights converge around policing practices. Officers and deputies hold the explicit ability to take away a resident’s liberty and life, and because of the burden of the consequences of these actions, the agencies should be subject to input from the community, which civilian oversight enables.
- ACoPP has supported a slow and deliberative process with time for public input, research, and education of the parties involved. It is imperative that we navigate this process to develop a civilian oversight board properly to create one that works for our community.
Oversight Board FAQs
Q: Who is on a civilian oversight board?
A: Civilian oversight boards (or COBs) are comprised of community members who are not law enforcement but still provide oversight and recommendations to law enforcement agencies.
Q: What do civilian oversight boards do?
A: COBs address specific components of policing which can include reviewing resident complaints, assessing policing policies and procedures, reviewing internal investigations, investigating allegations of misconduct, hosting community listening sessions, and managing risk from lawsuits for law enforcement agencies.
Oversight Board Myths and Misconceptions
Myth: Civilian oversight will impede officers.
Truth: Civilian oversight boards help ensure the safety of the officers and foster public trust through the use of transparency while building a bridge between policing agencies and the communities they serve. Their ability to compile, review, recommend actions, and share information (as appropriate) lends to their credibility.
Truth: Law enforcement agencies that work well with COBs report positive outcomes. An effective board can highlight the officers who use sound conduct and identify officers who do not.
Myth: Internal investigations already do a good enough job.
Truth: Without transparency, there is no way to know this. Police gather their own statistics, which use definitions and metrics internal to policing. Civilian oversight can make sure that the things that matter to the community are tracked and the right questions are being asked.
Myth: There are few complaints, so there are no problems in policing.
Truth: People who have had bad interactions with police may not trust that same agency to fix the problem. They may also fear retaliation or further harassment if they complain. Civilian oversight offers a third party outside of the law enforcement agency to bring concerns to.
Myth: Civilians can’t possibly understand policing, so they can’t possibly do oversight.
Truth: Best practice dictates that boards should meet to endorse proper training for board members, and offer a code of ethics. Oversight requires board members be extensively trained in best practices, legality of oversight issues in addition to the local law enforcement agency’s policies, procedures, code of conduct, use of force, etc.
Truth: Plenty of organizational boards include people from a variety of professions and backgrounds, which is often seen as a strength to the board.
Truth: Ranking officers are usually present during hearings to explain department procedures.