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It's not clear there will be a vote at Tuesday's Chattanooga City Council meeting to form a police oversight board, but the ordinance is on the agenda.

This is what is known about the potential board, based on the latest draft:

The board, dubbed the Police Advisory and Review Committee by its sponsors, Councilman Russell Gilbert and Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod, would be an objective investigative entity to review cases of police misconduct.

Its purpose is to "strengthen the relationship" between citizens and police and to "assure timely, fair and objective review of citizen complaints while protecting the individual rights of police officers," according to the ordinance's latest version on the city's website.

Discussions on forming an oversight board began earlier this year after a series of allegations of police brutality and misconduct, including rape, sexual battery and the filmed beating of a 37-year-old man during an arrest in March 2018.

The 11-page proposed ordinance is supposed to be up for a vote at Tuesday's meeting, but during last week's strategic planning session council members and police Chief David Roddy realized they weren't looking at the same document, leading some council members to think a vote may be delayed.

Since its first draft, the ordinance has undergone several revisions, and Roddy didn't have the latest one, according to the chief and council members.

While community activists have pushed for an oversight board, some aren't happy with the way this one is being created because it lacks community input.

Concerned Citizens for Justice has called the council's efforts an "undemocratic process" for including only law enforcement input.

"Community organizations and activists have already been studying different models and looking at legal aspects for years and are working on a grassroots community process toward an independent civilian oversight board," Jared Story said at last week's council meeting on behalf of Concerned Citizens for Justice.

City council members say they want the police department on board with the proposed committee, so they've been working with Roddy to ensure current police policies and legal requirements are met. (A bill — House Bill 658 and Senate Bill 1407 — to regulate police oversight boards statewide is now on Gov. Bill Lee's desk for signing.)

Who may be on the panel

The board would be made up of nine unpaid members, each of whom would have a track record of serving the people of Chattanooga for at least 10 years.

Their backgrounds should indicate "fairness, integrity and responsibility" and an active interest in public affairs, the ordinance states.

Members will have to be registered Hamilton County voters — a stipulation of the proposed state law — and cannot be government employees, though an exception exists for those working in education.

There is no mention of restricting membership based on demographics, which is in line with the potential new state law that prohibits such action.

That means there is no legal mechanism to ensure multiple demographics are represented on the board.

Each committee member is to be appointed by a City Council member and then confirmed by a majority council vote. All would have to attend the Citizens Police Academy offered by the Chattanooga Police Department.

Term limits are initially staggered: Three members will serve for one year, three members will serve for two years, and three members will serve for three years.

After that first round, all appointments are for three years. No member can serve more than two consecutive terms.

Members who miss three consecutive meetings, or 75% of meetings within a year, may be replaced.

Committee organization

The City Council is to designate a committee member to organize the first regular meeting. At that meeting, committee members are to elect one of their own as chairperson.

The chairperson is to be in charge of several tasks, including keeping meeting minutes, taking any complaints from the public and reviewing police department internal investigations before presenting them to the full committee.

They are to meet at least once per month, and at least five members would have to be present at each meeting for any action to be taken.

The committee won't be able to issue any subpoenas if the proposed legislation is signed. But because of one of the bill's amendments, the city council will be able to.

However, the committee "may utilize such power only when necessary to compel witnesses to provide statements in furtherance of an investigation as authorized by Tennessee law," the proposed ordinance states.

Something especially noteworthy is that the committee's meetings and records "shall be confidential to the public to the full extent required by Tennessee law as determined by the City Attorney," according to the proposed ordinance.

However, it also states that "[t]he Committee shall not have access to any non-public or confidential records of the City of Chattanooga."

How it'll work

The committee chairperson is to review all internal affairs investigations upon their completion and determine whether the investigation is complete. The chairperson then will report the investigation to the committee at its next meeting.

The committee is to review the internal investigations' findings and, by a majority vote, it could either:

> Ask the police chief to conduct a further investigation, or ask the committee chairperson to do so if the chief doesn't, or

> Recommend a final disposition and disciplinary action to the police chief.

Ultimately the police chief will have the final say on officer discipline in any case. And committee members are to meet with the police chief at least once per year to discuss recommendations on policy.

Also annually, the committee is to compile a comprehensive report on its activities.

"The report shall contain statistics and summaries of citizen complaints, including a comparison of the Committee's findings and conclusions with those of IA, along with the actions taken by the Police Chief," the proposed ordinance states.

Story with Concerned Citizens for Justice said community members have affirmed the need for an independent civilian oversight board and shown broad support at "dozens of meetings" convened by the organization over the years.

At one of its more recent events, a room full of people gathered at the Bethel AME Church on Walker Street to learn more about Nashville's efforts in its creation of a civilian oversight committee.

"We and many other engaged citizens have spoken at council meetings and been ignored or shut down," Story said. "CCJ sent a letter to council asking them to defer to a community-led process and to focus instead on pushing back as a body against the Tennessee state legislature's efforts to retroactively and preemptively reduce the power of exist[ing] and future civilian oversight boards. Our letter was ignored and instead city council continued to move forward with their undemocratic process."

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @Hughes Rosana.

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