Duluth Civilian Police Oversight Board In The Works

By KBJR News 1

December 3, 2010 Updated Dec 3, 2010 at 8:32 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NorthlandsNewsCenter)--An ongoing challenge for police departments across the country is gaining and keeping the public's trust.

Now in Duluth a planned Civilian Review Board hopes to serve as an intermediary between the police department and the community.

For nearly three years the members of the Duluth Task Force for Improved Community Police Accountability have been working towards this civilian review board and now there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Come Monday the task force is set to report on a community assessment that was commissioned earlier this year.

The report has been rolled into a draft proposal that may lay the ground work for the Civilian review board.

The assessment and proposal were written with the help of Professor Eileen Luna–Firebaugh, an expert in community police relations.

We spoke with Luna–Firebaugh during the initial brainstorming sessions, and she says a civilian review board should have a number of characteristics.

"What works?
A model that's independent.
A model that's fair and impartial.
A model that investigates thoroughly and a model that's responsive to the community."

While the task force isn't quite ready to talk about the issues the board may take up, task force member Donna Ennis says the board would be good for the community.

"There's improved trust, and there's improved relations when you have a civilian review board, crime rate goes down those sorts of things, so there's lots of benefits for the community."

The assessment was tailored to the needs of Duluth and in fact Luna–Firebaugh says she was impressed by the relationship between the police department and the community.

Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said he supports a board that brings people together and is not divisive.