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Controversial changes for Syracuse board on complaints against police

The City of Syracuse Department of Police sign at 511 S State St.
WAER File Photo
Changes to the Syracuse Citizen Review Board could affect its ability to investigate claims of police misconduct.

Syracuse lawmakers approved a change to the city’s Citizen Review Board Monday that some say weakens its independence. The amendment allows the Common Council to choose the C-R-B administrator, who manages investigations into citizen complaints of police misconduct. Councilor Chol Majok sponsored the measure. He hopes it will improve the board’s accountability to fulfill its mission.

“The intent was to make sure the citizen (s) were given something to hold police accountable in some way. And as we go forward, that need is becoming dysfunctional,” said Majok.

Criticisms of the board included meetings without a quorum of members and delayed reports that weakened the board’s ability to investigate complaints of police misconduct.

But several councilors objected to the measure that passed by a narrow 5-to-4 vote. Corey Williams agrees the C-R-B is not as effective as planned, but disagrees that more council involvement in the answer.

“I do not believe that we have adequately identified the root cause of this dysfunction," said Williams. Therefore, I cannot be assured that the proposed changes will address the challenges of the CRB. Additionally, I have concerns around the perceived independence of the body.”

He also believes the public should have more say in any changes, since the board is intended to serve the public.

CRB Board Chair Lori Nilsson also worries about the board's independence.

"With Common Council assuming the responsibility of the CRB administrator, taking that duty form the board, that aspect of citizen control is removed," said Nilsson

The C-R-B was established in 1993; it has the power to investigate complaints and if warranted, makes recommendations for discipline.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.