Report From the Meeting of Columbia’s Police Civilian Review Board

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Regular commenter “CTD” writes:

Last night I attended the monthly meeting of the Columbia Police Civilian Review Board. (The board itself is in its infancy, just having started up in January. The cops fought it’s formation every step of the way, of course.) The meeting had to be moved to the city council chamber because so many people showed up. Even then, it was standing room only. Not a single citizen who spoke attempted to defend the police. Not one. Several told similar stories about being victimized in raids, or having dogs killed. The local Libertarian Party chapter president spoke and quoted from Overkill, FYI. They quality of the citizen comments was surprisingly good, overall. Nobody made any point you haven’t a million times, but it was heartening to see so many agreeing that these paramilitary tactics are far too dangerous to be used for non-violent suspects. Thanks so much for getting the word out on this, we really appreciate it.

This was really my fondest hope for Overkill—that when one of these raids happens, citizens and policymakers would consult the paper. The idea for the SWAT transparency bill in Maryland came from Overkill. Maybe this episode will spur Missouri legislators to pass something similar.

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37 Responses to “Report From the Meeting of Columbia’s Police Civilian Review Board”

  1. #1 |  Kid Handsome | 

    It’s a start. I don’t think anything will change overnight. The furor in Columbia will eventually die down and probably not much substantive will come of it. However, the seed has been planted and as more people start paying attention to outrages such as the useless and unnecessary paramilitary tactics of local police departments, the more they will see that change is necessary.

  2. #2 |  Rhayader | 

    Awesome, glad to hear the crowd seemed largely sympathetic to the victims of this stuff. Kudos to CTD for giving us the scoop, and to Radley of course for being vigilant about this crap the other 99.9% of the time when the story doesn’t go viral.

    Just wondering — does anybody from the police department attend these “civilian review board” meetings? I’m just wondering what the department response was/will be, either right at the meeting or through the official communications between the department and the review board.

  3. #3 |  J sub D | 

    I’m not foolish enough to expect wholesale change in the short term but have good feelings that the fight against obviously unjustifiable militarized police raids will eventually be won.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Radley. Your work over the years is greatly appreciated by lovers of liberty and justice.

  4. #4 |  Tolly | 

    Bravo Radley. It’s good to see that the ball is at least rolling. I truly hope this leads to a closer relationship between police depts and the communities they are a part of. While the use of SWAT tactics is getting completely out of hand, I’d love to see it become less of an issue requiring further rules and regulations and more about LEOs realizing the job is to protect and serve their communities, not got to war against them.

    They are a vital part of the civil order and I miss the days when cops used to be someone you trusted and not someone you had to worry would be quick on the draw with a taser if you said the wrong thing.

    Now can we start the ball rolling on the Medical Examiner outrage that’s long overdue?

  5. #5 |  eigenman | 

    This is good work you do. Thank you.

  6. #6 |  Aresen | 

    Maybe this episode will spur Missouri legislators to pass something similar.

    We know that every police force and prosecutor will fight it. Along with every politician who wants to make a reputation for being ‘tough on crime.’

  7. #7 |  CTD | 

    #2 | Rhayader | May 14th, 2010 at 11:06 am

    There were quite a few cops in attendance, including the chief, who sat in the back. Originally, he had planned to present to the board some of the policy changes he is allegedly going to enact, but the board voted to table that part of the meeting. The stated reason was to not appear to be unduly influenced by the police. I suspect it had more to do with the sheer volume of citizen comments they expected, and the the very negative reaction the chief would have likely gotten from the crowd. I don’t doubt the latter. At one point the descriptor of CPD as “terrorists” drew loud applause, as did comparisons to tactics used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  8. #8 |  JS | 

    CTD “At one point the descriptor of CPD as “terrorists” drew loud applause, as did comparisons to tactics used in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    That is very good news! A big part of the problem is the cops don’t even realize that all the hero worship they get is mostly insincere and people generally kiss their asses and pretend to approve what they do only because they’re afraid of them. They desperately need to hear some honest constructive criticism.

  9. #9 |  Samsam | 

    Pendulums swing, it’s what they do. There have been periods in the past where police abuse got so bad that reforms were put in place (e.g. Miranda). Recently, the war on drugs, and “tough on crime” rhetoric caused the pendulum to swing back to the violent side.

    The good news is that with communication being so much better today, fewer abuses overall are needed to spur action. Things will improve. For a while anyway.

    Vigilance always.

    Samsam

  10. #10 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Radley Balko is making a difference (for the better). I can count on one hand the number of people I know who can legitimately make that claim.

  11. #11 |  Aresen | 

    Dave K.

    Sorry to hear about your loss of two fingers. :)

  12. #12 |  CRNewsom | 

    How many people here think that this will lead to more police departments “accidentally” deleting videos or making them impossible to get via FOIA requests? That seems to be the lesson that we are actually teaching the police. I know it’s not the lesson we’re trying to teach, but I think that is the way they will respond to this incident.

  13. #13 |  Bee | 

    Hear, hear, Dave Krueger. It shows what one dedicated person can do.

  14. #14 |  Rhayader | 

    @CRNewson: You’re probably right that this will serve to make suppression of footage more attractive to police departments, but developing technology is working against them. Almost everybody carries around a camera now, and a very large number of people are capable of recording video that is instantly uploaded to an online server. Good luck suppressing that.

    I’ve got sound and video recording at the press of a button on my phone, and I’ll be pressing “record” on that before I grab my registration next time I’m pulled over.

  15. #15 |  TimTomato | 

    Sounds like at least one military man doesnt think SWAT raids are very macho.

  16. #16 |  TimTomato | 

    I find it interesting it’s harder to raid a home in a war zone than it is in Missouri

  17. #17 |  CRNewsom | 

    @#14 Rhayadar: I agree that personal video recordings are doing great things for getting the news out about this crap. What makes this video different to me is that it was taken by the cops. Playing devil’s advocate here, if the cops show you a video, you can assume it to be edited to show them in the most positive light possible. That’s what makes this particular video so damning to them. This is the best they could do to make themselves look good, and look how horrible it reflects on them.

    The question about non-cop recorded videos is what happens to the cops shown on them? What about the cops that beat down the guy who was dancing (or whatever you want to call the non-aggressive act he was doing) or the cop who totally clotheslined the cyclist in NYC during the critical mass ride?

    To be perfectly honest, I think that people are quick to write off the actions of SWAT teams on drug raids until they find out that they’re killing dogs. Do we hold dogs lives above our constitutional rights? I like dogs just as much as the next guy, and if that’s what it takes to bring attention to the cause, so be it. That doesn’t make it any less f*cked up, though.

  18. #18 |  Dr Duck | 

    @14 –

    Check your local laws first. In some jurisdictions you can video with no problem, but if you include audio you’re guilty of wiretapping or eavesdropping.

  19. #19 |  SJE | 

    Take home message to the Missouri cops: its not just “the internet”

  20. #20 |  Juice | 

    Goddammit!!!

    The police are civilians. The more people call non-cops civilians, the more that the cops feel that they are not subject to the same set of laws as everyone else.

    If anything, they should be subject to more stringent application of the law.

  21. #21 |  Juice | 

    It should be called the Columbia Civilian Police Review Board.

  22. #22 |  Robert | 

    On the subject of cameras, did the police attending the meeting take any pictures or video of the people attending? Here the local police have a habit of videoing anyone that they don’t like when the person is speaking at a public meeting of the local government.

  23. #23 |  Nick | 

    Also, when the mayor of Columbia appeared on Freedom Watch, it was obvious he (or someone responsible for creating his talking points) had read Overkill.

    Information won’t cure the virus but it helps build immunity.

  24. #24 |  Marty | 

    I’m hoping good things come from this- it looks promising!

  25. #25 |  Rhayader | 

    @CRNewsome:

    What makes this video different to me is that it was taken by the cops. Playing devil’s advocate here, if the cops show you a video, you can assume it to be edited to show them in the most positive light possible.

    Oh absolutely. In fact, that’s what happened here — the cops first presented the victim’s family with a heavily edited video with no sound and with sections missing. The un-edited video was only presented once the media started making a stink (which is one reason why the work of Radley and others like him is so vital).

    Do we hold dogs lives above our constitutional rights?

    I just think people have a visceral reaction to the sound of a crying dog — we saw (or, really, heard) what it’s like right in that terrible moment. Even the Cheye Calvo story — which had a very similar set of facts involving the dogs — didn’t inspire the same reaction because people couldn’t see it go down.

    Plus, when they shoot a family pet, it’s just hard for even the most deferential asshole to give the “that damn dog had it coming” argument, which somehow is more universally accepted when adult humans are the victims. Nobody dislikes dogs and kids though.

  26. #26 |  Bronwyn | 

    Had there been video of the shooting of Tarika Wilson and her baby, including audio, I wonder if the public reaction would have been more effective?

  27. #27 |  JS | 

    Juice “Goddammit!!!

    The police are civilians. The more people call non-cops civilians, the more that the cops feel that they are not subject to the same set of laws as everyone else.

    If anything, they should be subject to more stringent application of the law.”

    Great point! They can go home at night. They can quit and go find another job anytime they want to. Cops ARE civilians.

  28. #28 |  Aresen | 

    TimTomato | May 14th, 2010 at 1:12 pm
    Sounds like at least one military man doesnt think SWAT raids are very macho.

    Aww, come on! What could be more macho than attacking a sleeping family with overwhelming firepower while clad in full body armor, terrorizing their children and shooting their beloved family pet before their eyes, then handcuffing them and forcing them to the floor with a semi-automatic rifle pointed at their heads while you and your cohort wreck their home?

    /snark

  29. #29 |  SJE | 

    Macho is not the same as brave. Macho is killing everything that moves. Brave is willing to hold your fire to protect the innocent from harm, even if there is a risk (however small) that you might be hurt. Well trained soldiers are brave. Hot-headed steroid-abusing SWAT teams that brutalize people, and then avoid accountability, are not brave: only bullies and cowards.

  30. #30 |  SJE | 

    PS: My old man was special forces, and knows how to shoot, kill and lead At nearly 70, still leads expeditions in deep mountainous jungle. No gun, but you should see him with a f*in’ axe handle. He taught me a lot about how force should be applied judiciously, and only where necessary in the civilian context. He is appalled at the behavior of a lot of cops. Last time he was pulled over, he interrupted the cop’s lecture to tell him to give him a ticket or let him go, but spare him the lecture.

  31. #31 |  JS | 

    God bless your dad SJE! We need more like that.

  32. #32 |  PogueMahone | 

    Thanks CTD for the first hand account. (and Radley, of course.)

    I hope that the meeting was recorded and made available online. I would also hope that even if the raid video going viral w/ a million+ viewers doesn’t make national news, then a video of hundreds of angry citizens at a town meeting rightfully bitching about it might.

    Maybe.

    And with a little luck and due diligence, we can win this war on the war on citizens drugs.

    Cheers.

  33. #33 |  Laura Victoria | 

    I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with the caliber of the comments (close to 400) in the Columbia Tribune article. It was almost like being here at home at The Agitator. http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2010/may/13/speaking-out-on-swat/

    Great job as always, Radley. The message is slowly getting out there that yes it can “happen to you” and you need to care when it happens to others.

  34. #34 |  Police Civilian Review Board | mad libertarian guy | 

    [...] the fuck do I start one of these?  Everywhere there is a police/sheriff’s department needs civilians to review police work, [...]

  35. #35 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Wow! Good news from Columbia, MO, and good news for Radley. Here is some demonstration that your hard work is paying off and people are listening or at least waking up. Keep up the good fight agitators!

  36. #36 |  Tyson | 

    And the criminal thugs continue

    7-year-old girl killed in Detroit police raid
    http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/05/16/michigan.police.child/index.html?eref=igoogle_cnn

  37. #37 |  John Schultz | 

    Small correction for CTD if they are still following this – the Libertarian chair who spoke was actually the Missouri state chair, someone who has been following Radley for some time now. I (the county chair) was hoping to attend and speak, but had kid duty that night.

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