May 7th, 2010 By JAMES PITKIN | News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall, Cops and Courts

New Police Oversight Ordinance: Still a Work in Progress

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There was much hoopla back in March when the City Council passed an ordinance to increase police oversight and boost the powers of the Independent Police Review Division.

The ordinance was set to take effect on Monday, May 3. The police bureau referred our questions about the ordinance's status to IPR. So we checked in today with IPR Director Mary-Beth Baptista on the city's progress implementing the plan.

Her answer boiled down to this: Technically the ordinance is in place, but there's still work to be done.

"You may have another quote from me if this falls apart down the road, but what we're saying right now is that we are doing everything that is required of us to get there," Baptista says.

The question is a contentious one. The police union has stated publicly, and in letters to the city attorney's office, that the changes called for in the ordinance should be subject to mandatory bargaining. And Yvonne Deckard, the city's human-resources director, has told WW she agrees with the union.

In correspondence (PDF) obtained by WW in a public-records request, the police union has twice asked the city's HR department whether and when the ordinance will go into effect. As of the last email provided to WW, on April 9, the union had yet to obtain an answer to that question from the city.

The ordinance gives IPR oversight of the police bureau's most contentious discipline cases — including a newly formed review committee. Baptista says IPR, the police bureau, and Deckard's Bureau of Human Resources are working together to implement the changes.

Baptista says as of May 3, all new complaints to IPR will be subject to the new provisions laid out in the ordinance. But she says the review committee is not yet in place, and the city is still rewriting its rules and directives to correspond with the ordinance.

Baptista says she hopes the new committee will be in place when the first new cases come up for review in five months.

"When you really need to call me is the day the board is supposed to start and say, did the new board start?" Baptista says.

Baptista says the city recognizes some parts of the ordinance must be bargained with the union, including new time-lines and a new discipline matrix.

"Is everything in the ordinance implemented today? I think that's the disconnect. Several pieces of the ordinance require work to be done, and part of that work requires work with the union," Baptista says. "There's pieces of this that need to be bargained, and we knew that going in."

Photo: Baptista (left), city Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade and IPR's Constantin Severe speak to the City Council about the IPR ordinance.
 
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