Actual Justice

January 8, 2015

By: Kevin Friley and Cynthia Vogler, Criminal Justice Clinic Members

Most law schools require students to take courses in criminal law and criminal procedure in order to graduate.  What is not required is clinical experience. Clinical experience develops the actual skills required for lawyering. Criminal law teaches you the elements of common crimes, such as the mens rea and actus reus of crimes.  However, it does not teach you how the details of the incident and the nuances of each situation can change the perception of those elements.  Criminal procedure teaches the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.   Illegal searches, defective warrants, and failure to advise of Miranda rights are all the red flags we are taught to look for.  While this information is undoubtedly important, the procedural aspect that will most likely help your client is the one you learn in the courtroom, not in the classroom. These applications in the field are something you can learn through clinical experience.

Clinical experience prepares you for lawyering in a way that a classroom cannot.  All of the factors that come into play when you are dealing with real people, real crimes, and real life cannot be replicated in a traditional educational setting.  The fear and anxiety that settles upon you in a courtroom when your client’s fate hangs in the balance is indescribable. Although in the Criminal Justice Clinic, we represent clients charged only with misdemeanors, these crimes can result in jail time, significant costs, and a criminal conviction that could forever damage their career and educational opportunities.

Procedurally, the defense attorney and the client are at the mercy of the prosecutor, who wields a significant amount of power.  The prosecutor decides what charges to bring initially and what charges to dismiss.  The prosecutor also controls the docket, thereby controlling the procedures of the courtroom. In a law school classroom, you are not taught the intricacies and responsibilities of each of these players in the criminal courtroom.

Although criminal law and procedure are essential courses for understanding basic legal concepts, real-world advocacy extends well beyond burdens of proof and the statutory schemes professed in the classroom.  As aforementioned, the roles played by others within the justice system are frequently glossed over in the classroom but are often the keys in successfully resolving cases.  Simply put, the personalities and motivators of the arresting police officer, the prosecutor, and the judge can prove just as important in defending a client as the governing statute or Constitutional provision.

Our first case of the semester had an interesting fact pattern, to say the least.  The client, Joan English,[*] was in her early twenties, unemployed, with a history of minor mental issues.  On the day Ms. English was taken into custody, the police had been dispatched several times.  Ms. English was having one of those days where everything just gets to you.  Everyone has had one of those days, when your friend from high school gets your dream job; your relationship with your boyfriend ends unexpectedly; everything is just going wrong.  That was Ms. English’s day.  She decided to go out for a bicycle ride.  She was weaving in and out of traffic, acting erratically, and several people called the police to report her strange behavior.

Ms. English returned home.  However because of her erratic behavior, the police encouraged her mother to have her committed.  This process involved going to the magistrate’s office and having an involuntary commitment order entered, as Ms. English’s mother felt she was a danger to herself and had no choice.  An involuntary commitment is a civil process as opposed to a criminal one.  In this case, Ms. English was committed to Carolinas Medical Center.  Before her mother could do that, Ms. English left her home again, this time to go to a retail shopping area.  She stole a basket assortment of candies, which she later discarded in the parking lot.  The police were again dispatched regarding Ms. English’s bizarre behavior.

The police officers came upon Ms. English in the retail parking lot and engaged her in conversation.   Ms. English’s mother completed the necessary paperwork at the magistrate’s office and the officers were instructed to pick up Ms. English and deliver her to the local hospital.   Ms. English was told she was not going to jail, but instead going to a mental hospital to get help.  The officers tried to handcuff her and she stiffened up.   Eventually, the officers did get the handcuffs on her and then attempted to put Ms. English in the police car.  Ms. English refused to comply, stiffening her body and resisting being put into the car.  The officers did succeed in getting Ms. English into the car and to the hospital without any injury or further incident.  Ms. English was in the local hospital for eleven days.  She attended therapy sessions that included coping skills and anger management, and was provided medication for her diagnosed mental illness.  Upon her release, Ms. English continued outpatient care and therapy.   Ms. English was arrested after her release for the charges of larceny and resisting a public officer, stemming from the incidents on the day of her commitment to the hospital.

In the English case, the characteristics of the arresting officer and two district attorneys ultimately determined when and how the case was disposed of.  From the outset, the client and her family expressed an understanding that the arresting officer was sympathetic towards her situation. A brief conversation with the officer on the client’s trial date confirmed this.  The officer understood that Ms. English had been experiencing some degree of mental distress at the time of the crime, and that her actions were likely the result of that distress rather than any criminal intent.  In this respect, the officer believed a criminal penalty would not benefit Ms. English.  The officer, without being prompted, stated that he was not opposed to dismissing the case.  When Ms. English’s case was ultimately dismissed, the assistant district attorney (ADA) deferred to the officer before making this decision.

Had this police officer not been compassionate and legitimately concerned with what was best for Ms. English, the case would have proceeded to trial.  The officer could have easily stood his ground and contended that Ms. English’s actions were within the meaning of the relevant statutes and that she should submit to the consequences of her actions.  Instead, the officer was thoughtful and understood what was best for Ms. English.  He wasn’t concerned with which actions were legal and which were illegal, he was concerned with the best outcome for the parties involved.  This is what justice is really about, rather than harsh, indifferent results that can fracture peoples’ lives.

Prosecutors and police officers play a substantial role in when and how a case is disposed, as prosecutors have a great deal of discretion.  How a particular prosecutor chooses to exercise her discretion can influence the outcome of a case far more than a statute or fact.  For instance, some prosecutors are focused primarily on efficiency in an effort to dispose of more cases, and thereby make quick decisions based solely upon the nature of the charge itself.  Others, however, are interested in the smaller details of the crime and are more invested in what outcomes are just.  We were fortunate Ms. English had a thoughtful prosecutor and police officer, both of which led to a just result.  Redefining justice as more than seeking a conviction and exacting a pound of flesh can be the first step in a serious dialogue with communities about the true meaning of justice.

[*] The name has been changed to protect the confidential attorney-client relationship.


“The Privacies of Life”: Cellphone Searches, Court Confusion, and Public Misconception in the Post-Riley Era

December 22, 2014

By: M. Claire Donnelly

The landmark decision of the summer, that has since thrown both police departments and technology companies into frenzy, was the unanimous Supreme Court decision in United States v. Riley.[1]  The highest Court in our nation made clear: “[o]ur answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cellphone seized incident to arrest is accordingly simple—get a warrant.”[2]  The Court reasoned that even though cellphones are hand-held objects, they are not less worthy of the protections of the Fourth Amendment that our Founders fought diligently for—to protect from “the privacies of life.”[3]  Riley, which upholds one of our most fundamental rights as citizens, has led to a  debate between civil rights groups, law enforcement agencies, and technology companies regarding privacy.  In addition to this debate, and in light of the Snowden leaks, the public is unaware of its privacy concerning technology.

As Riley made its way up the pipeline, commentators were not so sure how the Court would rule.  Although Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protects everyone from arbitrary or unlawful interferences with their “privacy, family, home, or correspondence,” the law upholding the right to privacy has struggled to respond to new technology.  Since the decision, Riley has impacted every cellphone user in our nation, which just so happens to be roughly 90% of American adults as of January 2014.[4]  Most of these users’ phones—58%—are smartphones.[5]  Every one of these cellphone owners is impacted in the way our government invades this now “private” area.

The impact did not end just there.  Riley has also impacted every technology company introducing new products that are touted to have the best encryption methods yet.  In September, Apple released that their new privacy policy does not allow for the company to bypass an individual cellphone user’s password.  Prior to this release, Apple was able to unlock cellphones for the police, and since this change the company has received public backlash from the FBI and law enforcement agencies.  The Director of the FBI, James Comey, attacked Apple and Google, who followed Apple’s lead, by saying the companies are “market[ing] something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.”  The FBI has since requested secret “backdoor” accessibility, unknown to the public.  Civil rights groups, however, have criticized this suggestion by arguing that once a backdoor is created, hackers and foreign governments will “come knocking.”[6]  In addition, these groups argued, “the government has never had access to everything, and it shouldn’t.”  Seems similar to the Court’s ruling.

Photo credit of coptubeamerica.com.

Photo credit of coptubeamerica.com.

Post-Riley, lower courts are now grappling with many other issues surrounding cellphones.  One such issue, which has been emerging as a “prime battleground” post-Riley, is cell site information, which is the data gathered from location-sensing technology on a cellphone.  Notably, two weeks before Riley was issued, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled on cell site information, also referred to as “metadata.”  The Eleventh Circuit rejected law enforcement’s practice of tracking a suspect under this method without a warrant because the information is within the cellphone owner’s reasonable expectation of privacy.  Soon after, in light of Riley and the Eleventh Circuit, the Northern District of California denied law enforcement’s “longstanding practice” of obtaining cellphone location information.

Another main issue that has arisen is evidenced by a district court in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that just ruled on the new iPhone 6 encryption software, Touch ID.  The court held that the new encryption, which allows the user to access the contents of his phone via fingerprint touch rather than inputting a password, is not protected in the same way that a password is under the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition on self-incrimination in a criminal proceeding.  The court reasoned that unlike compelling a password, which violates the Fifth Amendment because it requires a defendant to divulge the contents of his mind, a fingerprint is akin to a DNA sample or handwriting, which the law permits.[7]  These are not the only issues that have judges considering the impact of Riley in their rulings, however.  As judges decide cases on searches of student cellphones, photographs seized from a cellphone of a court observer, and photographs seized off a phone incident to arrest, they are considering the powerful words of the Court in Riley: “get a warrant.”  By categorizing these handheld objects as deserving of this privacy, subsequent issues that arise from cellphones must adhere.

As more and more issues arise, recent reports are highlighting unlawful government surveillance with regards to cellphones other than opening the phone itself or collecting the phone’s metadata.  For example, National Public Radio (NPR) recently reported on the use of “Stingrays” and “ISMI catchers,” which mimic a cell phone tower and intercept cellphone signals.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) requested records from one police department in Florida suspected of using this type of surveillance technology.  However, federal agencies swooped in and destroyed or got rid of the technology, and provided no information on the matter.  Similar requests have been made by thirty-four ACLU affiliates, who filed over 375 requests.  According to the Riley ruling, these tactics should require warrants, absent exigent circumstances.

Another recent scandal in the media occurred in October after FBI Director Comey commented on the public misconception and hurdles of surveillance technology.  He stated:

“In the wake of the Snowden disclosures, the prevailing view is that the government is sweeping up all of our communications.  That is not true.  And unfortunately, the idea that the government has access to all communications at all times has extended—unfairly—to the investigations of law enforcement agencies that obtain individual warrants, approved by judges, to intercept the communications of suspected criminals…  Some believe that the FBI has these phenomenal capabilities to access any information at any time—that we can get what we want, when we want it, by flipping some sort of switch.  It may be true in the movies or on TV.  It is simply not the case in real life.”

Similar to the Riley Court, Comey acknowledges the importance of privacy protection in the everyday person’s cellphone and the need to have a firm standard.  However, as the above cases and reports demonstrate, law enforcement is abusing this privacy standard.  Law enforcement must adapt prior policies and change its ways in order to comply with this standard.

Locally, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) has reported to be adapting their policies, which are currently contrary to the law post-Riley.  Prior to Riley, investigators obtained cellphone information incident to arrest without a warrant.  CMPD Detective Brent Foushee, who has been with the department twenty-six years, said the Court’s decision in Riley “turned this [practice] on its head.”  In addition, he said that about half of his suspects in custody consent to the search of their cellphone, which under the law—even under Riley—is lawful because of the voluntary consent.

Technology companies and law enforcement may be making efforts to conform to Riley, but with these changes comes more problems.  Moreover, courts have not yet caught up with already-existing technology.  How will they be able to catch up with technology in the works?  And how will technology companies and law enforcement efficiently adapt with each change in the law?  Furthermore, as CMPD demonstrates, there are still lawful ways to get around the privacy standard upheld in Riley.  This is not an easy process.

Law enforcement, the judicial system, and the public are all struggling to understand the law in regard to cellphones.  While the Supreme Court has recognized the importance of privacy in this area, implementation of that privacy and creating a fine line for where that privacy begins and ends is unclear.  One thing is for certain, however: the Court has recognized—in a unanimous decision—that it is unlawful to conduct a warrantless search of a cellphone.  Subsequent cases regarding cellphone technology must follow this ruling.

[1] Riley v. California, 134 S.Ct. 2473 (2014)(United States v. Wurie was combined with similar case Riley, and they were argued and decided together).

[2] Id. at 2495.

[3] Id.

[4] http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/mobile-technology-fact-sheet/

[5] Id.

[6] https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security-technology-and-liberty/securing-our-data-should-come-first.  Academia in the field is also shooting down Comey’s suggestion, as Columbia University science professor Steven Bellovin said, backdoors are “a disaster waiting to happen.”

[7] See also Keeping the Government Out of Your Smartphone, where Chris Soghoian, Principal Technologist and Senior Policy Analyst at the ACLU warned: “screen unlock patterns are not your friend.” And see Apple’s Fingerprint ID May Mean You Can’t Take the Fifth, where Marcia Hofmann, a boutique lawyer focusing on computer security, a former staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and adjunct professor at U.C. Hastings College of Law, warned of the legal effects of moving from pin to fingerprint.


Target Practice: Victim Blaming and the Cross-Sections of Race and Gender

November 4, 2014

By: Tierra M. Ragland

Victim blaming is a devaluing act that occurs when the victim of a crime is held responsible in whole or in part for the crime committed against them. Victim blaming can occur in the form of negative social responses from the media, society, legal professionals, medical professionals, and immediate family members. Some victims of crime receive more sympathy from society than others. Often, the responses toward victims of crime are based on negative societal stereotypes. These responses may lead others to believe that the victims deserved what happened to them.

Victim blaming can happen to anyone, but it overwhelmingly affects victims of rape, indigent populations, and victims of domestic violence. When victims are African-American, they may also become the subject of victim blaming.  Victim blaming can occur from media coverage that focuses on a victim’s unrelated or alleged criminal past, the physical attributes of the victim, how the victim was dressed, and any actions they may have taken that led them to becoming a victim. Victim blaming is problematic for a variety of reasons. Societal tendencies to victim blame encourage crimes to go unreported. Often, victims of crimes do not get adequate assistance and the accused go unprosecuted, leading them to get away with the crime they committed.

Domestic Violence

Recently, National Football League “NFL” running back Ray Rice was suspended from the NFL for domestic abuse against his then fiancé, now wife, Janay Rice. TMZ released surveillance footage of the incident, which sparked a media frenzy. Social debate soon followed with conversations surrounding the actions of the victim.  Conversations in the media speculate as to why she married him, what she did for him to hit her, and how and why she would defend him. This example of victim blaming is problematic because it places all of the blame on a victim of domestic violence and attempts to justify the actions of the alleged abuser. High profile victim blaming such as this can lead to future incidents of domestic violence not being reported, and potential cycles of violence to continue.

Rape

Last year the Steubenville Rape investigation was a constant fixture in the news media.  A 16-year old girl was raped at a party by two local high school football stars. After the rape, pictures of the victim being violated were sent throughout the high school and social media. During the trial of the two young men, the focus of many local and national new broadcast consisted of victim blaming. There were questions surrounding what the victim was wearing, whether she was drinking, and how the accusation would affect the promising football careers of the young men.  Instances of victim blaming such as this contribute to rape culture, which focuses heavily on policing the actions of victims and not the actions of predators.  Even after the boys were convicted of rape, the community, her peers, and the news media harassed the victim and her family.

Earlier this year, one of the rapists was released from detention and returned to playing on his high school football team. Upon his release, there was a press release about how this incident has affected him and his family but there was no apology to the victim. When the purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate, what message does it send to the victim when her convicted rapist serves less than a year in juvenile detention and gets to pick up his life right where he left off? A victim has to spend the rest of her life with the reality of public humiliation through pictures on social media, harassment by the community, and blame for ruining the promising future of her rapist.

Race

In a country that has a history of discrimination, brutality, racism, and systematic oppression against African-Americans, Blacks are often blamed for the crimes committed against them under the guise that race no longer matters in “post-racial America.” This becomes problematic because the United States is far from, if ever, being post-racial. We, as a country, have not effectively dealt with the consequences and vestiges left behind from slavery, segregation, and disenfranchisement. Our history of systemic oppression makes the cross-section between race and victim blaming a tense and complicated issue.

In February 2012, seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman.  During the media coverage of Zimmerman’s trial, the focus quickly turned to race. The media coverage focused on the physical size of Martin, his alleged prior drug use, and whether a black hoodie is or is not suspicious. This type of victim blaming is problematic because it suggests that if you look a certain way, dress a certain way, or have participated in certain activities, murder is justifiable. This instance of victim blaming is also interesting because much of the focus was on the actions of the victim and very little focus was on his age: Martin was still considered a child in the eyes of society and the law.  Zimmerman was ultimately acquitted of all charges.

In August 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American man, was shot six times, including twice in the head, by Missouri police officer Darren Wilson.  The shooting occurred during an encounter with Wilson, while Brown and a friend were walking down the street. This shooting sparked protest in the small town of Ferguson, Missouri, and received national media coverage. While the topic of the media coverage did focus on the “trend” of shooting deaths surrounding unarmed black men, elements of victim blaming still occurred. Media coverage and police statements made it seem as if Brown may have been involved in the theft of a cigar from a convenient store earlier that day, and accusations were made that Brown’s physical size may have intimidated the officer.  There were additional comments by the community and media that Brown was starting college soon, therefore his death was more tragic, suggesting that being shot while unarmed and surrendering is not tragic enough. Victim blaming as related to this incident is problematic because it devalues the life of the victim, and focuses on the actions of the victim, suggesting that his or her death or injury could have been preventable if only he had acted differently.

Protests surrounding Brown’s shooting also received media attention. The protestors were described as rioters and met with Ferguson police equipped in military gear. The protestors were gassed, harassed, and categorized in the media according to the actions of only a small number of looters.  Protest and civil unrest is still continuing in Ferguson. Darren Wilson has not been charged for the shooting of Michael Brown.

The above instances are a just few examples of victim blaming and the damaging effects that it can have on recovery and justice for the victim.  Racial aspects of both of the young men’s victim blaming consists of the physical size of black man, which is seen as intimidating, and their actions as criminal even when they have not been convicted. Many more victims of domestic violence, victims of rape, and unarmed black men have been the subject of victim blaming by the media and society.  Since the shooting of Michael Brown, thirteen African-Americans have been fatally shot by police. An entire book could be written on the subject.

The media and society have not only constructed socially acceptable victims but also socially acceptable alleged perpetrators of crimes and other forms for wrongdoing.

In comparison to the protest in Ferguson, similar protests have been categorized sympathetically by the media. For example, after the firing of long-time coach Joe Paterno by Penn State, thousands of students stormed the campus to express their outrage. Students gathered in the streets, overturned a media news van, tore down lampposts, and threw rocks and fireworks at police. The police responded with pepper spray. At no time were the protestors met with tear gas or police in military gear. In the media, the students were described as hurt by the firing of their beloved coach.  The media described demonstrators as “filing down into the streets.” The media expressed empathy and understanding as to why the students were outraged. Comparing this to the protesting in Ferguson where the protestors were arrested and met with tear gas and police in military gear, it begs the question of why such a vast difference in media coverage exists when, at the core, both protestors were expressing their outrage using their first amendment rights.

In July 2012, James Holmes opened fire into a crowded movie theater killing twelve people and injuring fifty-eight.  The media coverage surrounding the shooting described Holmes as mentally ill and a disturbed young man. In contrast, Martin and Brown, the victims of shootings, were described in the media negatively to justify the crimes against them, whereas Holmes is accused of committing the deadliest shooting since the Columbine school shootings and his actions are described as the result of mental health issues.

In a society ruled by social perceptions, victim blaming can be used as a tool to describe victims as worthy and unworthy. When this occurs, real social issues based in race and gender get lost in the conversation. There is little to no solution on how to effectively address these issues. However, the first step to end victim blaming is to allow victims to be victims and not condemn them in media


Hundreds March on Uptown Charlotte

September 2, 2012

A Coalition to March on Wall Street South led the parade. Photo Credit: Evan C.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to this streets today in what is likely to be one of the largest marches of the DNC. Activist groups from all over the country, advocating on a wide array of issues took part in the March. The groups converged in Frazier Park this morning for speeches and to prepare for the march. At one, the march began.

In an overabundance of caution, there were nearly as many police officers present as there were protesters. The march essentially took place in a moving bubble of police lines. Police on bicycles and on foot lead the marchers through the streets. Lines of officers marched along side the protesters as well, preventing them from leaving the street. A police helicopter circled low overhead.

Hundreds of police officers from all across North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and beyond line the streets as demonstrators pass by. Photo Credit: Evan C.

A police helicopter circles extremely low above the marchers. Photo Credit: Evan C.

The demonstrators marched through the city chanting slogans and displaying a variety of creative signs. The march stopped in front of the Bank of America building and the Duke Energy building where activist leaders gave speeches emphasizing the importance of clean energy, a clean environment, and decried the prevalence of home foreclosures and the corrupt practices of the Wall Street 1%. One protester’s sign summed it up well:

One protester is generally displeased. Photo Credit: Evan C.

As with the Bank of America shareholder meeting and Duke Energy protests earlier this year, the police were very restrained. There have been no reports of police abuse or violence. Currently, it appears that only one person was arrested for wearing a scarf over her face, something that is prohibited by the DNC Ordinances. As the protesters had pledged from the beginning, the protest was entirely peaceful. It appears for now that officials’ cries of impending anarchy are not coming to pass.

Leave Us A Comment: Do you think demonstrations such as this are an effective method of communicating a message? Do they play a real part in changing the system or the country’s policies?

For more information see these articles from WCNC and WBTV.

UPDATE: It appears that a second person was arrested for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assaulting a government official. Notably, it appears that the man was a bystander, not a protester. Activists report that a third person was pulled over and arrested for driving without a license shortly after leaving the demonstrators’ convergence space.


Charlotte Citizens Review Board – Who Watches the Watchmen?

March 13, 2012

When a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer is accused of misconduct, the Internal Affairs Bureau investigates the alleged behavior. The Bureau is dedicated to preserving the public trust and confidence in the Police Department and seeks to maintain the highest standard of fairness while conducting investigations. However, the Bureau is also a part of the Police Department, which leads many in the community to be suspect of the Bureau’s impartiality. 

In Charlotte, this suspicion came to a head in the mid-nineties. On November 19, 1996, a white police officer shot an unarmed 19 year old five times at a traffic stop, killing him. This incident led to a large community protest outside of the District Attorney’s Office for failing to prosecute the officer involved. On April 8, 1997, police officers fired 22 shots at a car passing through a police checkpoint, killing the 48 year old passenger. Spurred by community outrage over these incidents, Charlotte created the Citizens Review Board.

The Board serves as a forum to which individuals appeal the Chief of Police’s disciplinary determination against officers accused of misconduct. The Board is composed of 11 members — five appointed by City Council, three appointed by the Mayor, and three appointed by the City Manager. When the Board receives notice of an appeal, it holds a preliminary meeting to consider the appeal. The Board then determines whether to hold a full hearing on the appeal which includes testimony from the complainant and the police department, presentation of evidence, and questioning by both parties. After the hearing, the Board can ask for further investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau, accept the Department’s action, or reject the Department’s action. If the Board rejects the Department’s action, it will make recommendations to the Chief of Police and the City Manager.

When ruling an appeal, the Board asks whether by a preponderance of the evidence it appears that the Chief of Police abused his discretion in taking no action, or an insufficient action, on the complaint. Since 1997, the Board has addressed approximately 60 complaints. The Board held only four full hearings. In the entire 15-year history of the Board, it has never found in favor of the complainant. While it’s possible that the Chief has never abused his discretion, the Clinic decided to conduct an in depth analysis of the Board’s history to determine whether the Board was fulfilling its mandate or simply rubber-stamping the Police Chief’s actions.

To this end, the Clinic filed two Public Records Requests seeking documents relating to the Board, its meetings, procedures, dispositions, member information, and more. While the Clinic did receive a substantail amount of documentation, the City witheld information it deemed exempt from disclosure as personnel records.

However, the records the City did disclose raise significant questions. For example, as you can see in the Clinic’s slideshow presentation, many of the Board’s meeting minutes and closed session general summaries are simply boilerplate forms which contain virtually no facts about what transpired.  The Clinic is currently working with the City Attorney’s Office to implement record-keeping procedures for the Board that will help make its Board meetings more transparent.

The Clinic is also attempting to locate past complainants that have been through the Citizens Review Board appeals process. We have been able to collect a number of researchable names from the documents obtained through our public records requests. However, the records contain no contact information for the complainants so the Clinic members have put on their Sherlock Holmes hats to perform extensive public records and internet research in order to find them. By speaking with these people the Clinic will be able to get a better understanding of the process as a whole from the perspective of the complainant. If you have submitted an appeal to the Board in the past, or are planning to file one, please contact us.

The Board does not have its own website and little information about it can be found on the Police Department or City websites. The only substantive reference to the Board we found was in the Internal Affairs Bureau’s FAQ page under “Can I challenge the decision?” Through our work with the City and the Board we also hope to raise public awareness of the Board’s existence.


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