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Syracuse Common Council to consider changes to Citizen Review Board

A crowd fills common council chambers in fall 2019 when previous CRB legislation was up for consideration.
Scott Willis
A crowd fills common council chambers in fall 2019 when previous CRB legislation was up for consideration.

Syracuse Common Councilors today could make significant changes to the control and oversight of the public agency that investigates complaints of police misconduct. They’re considering an amendment that would put the council in charge of appointing an administrator for the Citizen Review Board. Under current rules, board members have that authority. Barrie Gewanter played a key role in rewriting the CRB’s guiding legislation in 2011, and told a CRB board meeting earlier this month that councilors shouldn’t have that level of involvement.

“No, that's not the way it's supposed to work. That's not the way it was intended," Gewanter said. "The council appoints people on this board. The board should appoint the administrators.” 

Gewanter says she’s also opposed to a measure that would give the Clerk of the Common Council more authority over the CRB administrator, other personnel, budget, and office policy. Gewanter feels its outside the scope of the clerk’s duties outlined in the charter.

“I would urge you guys do not let the city councilors muzzle your voice, either Ranette's voice or your chairs voice," Gewanter said. "Because if you can't speak to what you need in your budget, or what you need administratively, because the clerk is speaking for you, that doesn't work. That's not the people’s voice. And you are the people's voice and the people's watchdog.”

Gewanter also decried the lack of opportunity for public input on the changes. Councilors have not debated the measure publicly at study sessions and did not schedule a committee meeting.

The New York Civil Liberties Union expressed similar concerns. In a release, a spokesperson Mohamed Tanguine says there is no justification for moving forward any legislation without at least hearing from stakeholders —including Syracuse residents directly impacted by police abuse – in a dedicated public safety committee hearing." He also calls the measure "an encroachment by the Council on the independence of the CRB and would reduce its ability to handle its own affairs."

Councilor Chol Majok told that he doesn’t see the proposed amendments as major changes. They’re scheduled to vote Monday at 1:00 pm.

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