GENEVA — A City Council forum in August took on the issue of a police accountability board for the city. What was missing from that discussion was a proposed local law.
There is one now, and on Wednesday City Council will host a public hearing on Local Law 1-2020, which would amend the city charter by adding a chapter to create a Police Accountability Board.
The hearing, which starts at 5:30 p.m., will take place via Zoom teleconference at https://zoom.us/j/. The meeting ID is 87136215571 and the password is 266923. It will also be aired on the city’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/channel/UCV6Q8rBUqBYLrjydrZS0IJg.
Those wishing to comment can do so on Zoom, or they can send comments in writing or by email to City Clerk Lori Guinan at email@example.com.
Requests to be heard by Zoom or written or email comments must be received by Guinan no later than noon Wednesday. There is a three-minute time limit on comments made on Zoom during the hearing.
There is no vote planned on the proposed local law, and the city has not indicated when that could happen.
Earlier this week, the city released the proposed local law creating the PAB; if approved, the board would have the power to investigate and critique conduct by the Geneva Police Department, but would not mete out punishment if an officer was found to have committed misconduct. That power remains in the hands of the police chief.
The proposal has received the endorsement of the People’s Peaceful Protest, the Black Lives Matter organization that has pushed the city to adopt a number of police reforms.
Under the law, within five days after the PAB receives a misconduct complaint against a Geneva police officer, it will turn over a copy and documentation to the police chief to commence an investigation. The investigation would need to be completed within 30 days of receiving the complaint, but an extension could be granted by the city manager. The PAB would not be allowed to conduct its own investigation until the police finish theirs.
Under the proposed law, the chief must share with the PAB all evidence gathered by police, with the findings and determinations of the GPD internal investigation, unless prohibited by law. Once the PAB receives the chief’s determination the PAB may, by majority vote, decide to conduct its own supplementary investigation.
After the PAB completes its investigation, it would make a determination on the complaint to the chief. The PAB can provide its recommendation on punishment, but cannot compel the chief to follow it, the proposed local law states.
While the legislation has the support of the PPP, the two police unions representing city officers oppose the earlier “placeholder” version of the local law drafted by the PPP, and it’s expected that they will challenge the law in court if it is enacted.
Ahead of the hearing on Wednesday, City Council will hold a special meeting Monday featuring a presentation by Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher. That law firm will discuss the city’s PAB proposal.
“Gibson Dunn has worked on various police reform efforts and is doing a presentation to Council pro bona,” City Manager Sage Gerling said.
She said members of the firm “worked with the Leadership Conference on Human Rights to publish a comprehensive policing report and toolkit, ‘New Era of Public Safety: A Guide to Fair, Safe, and Effective Community Policing,’ which was recently cited in an essay by President Obama.”
Discussion and questions by Council will follow the presentation, Gerling said.
Monday session, also slated for a 5:30 p.m. start, also takes place on the Zoom virtual meeting platform and will be presented live on the city’s YouTube channel.