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Syracuse's Civilian Police Oversight Board Works to Improve Police/Community Relations

Scott Willis

The independent panel that investigates allegations of police misconduct in Syracuse is also trying to change the relationship between police and the community.  The Citizen Review Board’s primary role is to review complaints and make disciplinary, policy, training, and other recommendations to the police chief.  But CRB administrator Ranette Releford says there also has to be a change in the mindset of officers, understanding that black and brown communities feel fear anytime they call the police.

"They have a fear that they won't be listened to.  They have a fear that they will be mistreated.  There is an overall cultural shift that needs to occur.  It also has to do with officers speak to invididuals they come into contact [with]." 

Toward that end, CRB Chair Peter McCarthy says Syracuse Common Councilors will be considering an ordinance called “right to know” pushed by the NYCLU.    

"It would require officers, when they stop somebody, to identify themselves, let the person know why they're stopping them, and provide them with contact information for the CRB if they have a complaint.  That's a major shift in the relationship between the police and citizens."

CRB leaders say they’re pleased that the police department recently updated its use of force policy after they began pushing for change in 2012.  Releford says relations are better between the board and Chief Kenton Buckner compared to previous chiefs, and they’re seeing progress in the department’s office of professional standards. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at