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‘A historic moment:’ DeKalb Citizen’s Police Review Board convenes for first time

DeKALB – For the first time in the city of DeKalb’s history, a citizen’s police review board made up of DeKalb residents met this past week.

The group is tasked with deliberating over claims that an officer violated the DeKalb Police Department’s “use of force” policies.

DeKalb Police Chief David Byrd welcomed all five citizen’s police review board members to the Thursday meeting, which was held at the city’s police department on West Lincoln Highway.

“This is a historic moment for the city of DeKalb and the DeKalb Police Department specifically,” Byrd said. “ … We’re very excited to have all of you here,” Byrd said.

Board chairman Maurice McDavid – as well as board members Justin Carlson, Kate Noreiko, Veronica Origel and John Walker – were all present for the meeting.

DeKalb Police Chief David Byrd talks about the duties of the newly-formed DeKalb Citizens Police Review Board during the first meeting of the board Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, at the DeKalb Police Department.DeKalb Citizens Police Review Board members   Justin Carlson and Kate Noreiko, former fifth ward alderman, talk before the start of the first meeting of the board Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, at the DeKalb Police Department.DeKalb Police Chief David Byrd talks about the duties of the newly-formed DeKalb Citizens Police Review Board during the first meeting of the board Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, at the DeKalb Police Department.DeKalb Police Chief David Byrd greets DeKalb Citizens Police Review Board member Maurice McDavid, former Dean of Students at DeKalb High School, before the start of the first meeting of the board Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, at the DeKalb Police Department.DeKalb Police Chief David Byrd talks about the duties of the newly-formed DeKalb Citizens Police Review Board during the first meeting of the board Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, at the DeKalb Police Department.

Part of the two-hour-long orientation meeting included reviewing the department’s staff organizational chart and its policies. Board members also took the opportunity to ask Byrd questions directly during the session.

The board will be tasked with reviewing complaints of use of force on calls and processes to assure that the use of force was within departmental guidelines, Byrd said. They’ll also recommend discipline or policy action for each case as necessary to the police chief. The chief will have the final say whether disciplinary action is taken.

The process could start with a citizen complaint made against a police officer. The complaint will be reviewed by the board, and the board chair will have direct access to the police department’s complaint portal online, Byrd said.

From there, Byrd said the police department would launch its own internal investigation regarding the complaint, which will also be reviewed by the board.

The police chief would then review the board’s recommendation for a policy change or disciplinary action.

“I would either concur with the board or I would make my own individual decision,” Byrd said.

The DeKalb Police Department is staffed by 60 sworn officers and 27 civilian staff members, including social work staff who might assist in mental health wellness calls.

In July, the DeKalb City Council approved a second full-time social worker to work directly with DeKalb police through at least Aug. 31, 2022. The workers are contracted through Northwestern Medicine’s Ben Gordon Center. According to city documents, the agreement costs the City of DeKalb $67,092, which will cover one social worker’s salary. The second social worker’s salary will be covered by DeKalb County Mental Health Board grants.

Byrd said he wants to increase department staffing, and anticipates DeKalb’s overall population will grow due to the arrival of large employers on the south side, including Facebook, Ferrara Candy Company and Amazon.

“As the city grows, we have to grow – that’s just how it is,” Byrd said. “We need to mirror the growth of the city.”

Byrd said he doesn’t think the frequency of complaints against DeKalb police officers is going to be that high. He said he doesn’t believe there’s an established statute of limitations or deadline after an incident for anyone to make a complaint against an officer.

The police chief offered the review board advice on considerations they could make as they review cases, including past precedent for disciplinary action, multiple body camera angles when reviewing footage and height and weight of an officer during an incident.

“It’s not always going to be cut and dry,” Byrd said.

DeKalb Citizens Police Review Board members   Justin Carlson and Kate Noreiko, former fifth ward alderman, talk before the start of the first meeting of the board Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, at the DeKalb Police Department.

DeKalb Citizens Police Review Board members Justin Carlson and Kate Noreiko, former fifth ward alderman, talk before the start of the first meeting of the board Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, at the DeKalb Police Department. (Mark Busch – mbusch@shawmedia.com/)

DeKalb Dep. Police Chief Jason Leverton, who has been with the police department for 26 years, said he is considered the policy head for the police department. He said the department’s nearly 140 policies come from the 1970s and onward, and are considered living documents by department staff which reviews policies every few years.

Leverton said language in departmental policy is deliberate – for example, the word “power” is not a word used in policies.

“We don’t teach police officers that they have power,” Leverton said. “We teach them that we have responsibility.”

Byrd said the department might bring in police officers who could provide demonstrations of legitimate uses of force during review board training.

The next citizen’s review board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the DeKalb Police Department on West Lincoln Highway.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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