In recent weeks, you have heard two commentaries in support of a petition to create a civilian review board for our Chapel Hill police; today you will hear one opposed.
Mr. Barry Freeman said a board is needed because of the way he and his wife were treated by an officer while they were protesting the opening of the Army’s Career Center in December, 2006. I was there and observed a police officer politely ask the couple three times to put down their sign while on private property, or move to the public area where they could protest with their sign. They refused. The officer told them he would have to cuff and arrest them. They still refused and the officer did as he said he would do. I observed the officer exercising extreme care and courtesy. The Freemans, not the officer, displayed improper behavior.
During 2007, out of thousand and thousands of citizen contacts, the Chapel Hill Police Department received 26 citizen complaints and only one complaint was sustained. I fear that a citizen review board here is a solution looking for a problem because we already have several mechanisms. Also, it would take authority away from our chief to hold officers accountable for their actions in a timely and appropriate fashion, and it would make our force less effective. If we don’t think our chief can the job that we have asked him to do, we need to get a new chief.
Our officers have a very tough job, and they typically do it very well. If only all citizens upheld their responsibilities just as well.