Atlantic City Council is finally moving on a public safety civilian review board it first created — but never filled — nearly two years ago. The board was council’s answer after it had been “bombarded with complaints from the community regarding allegations of police brutality, harassment (and) abuse of authority,” according to the ordinance.
But since the 2012 vote, the only moves have been to keep changing how many members would sit on the board, which would be a first stop for such allegations.
The amended ordinance calls for 11 members, with each of the nine councilmen getting to make one appointment, and the mayor getting two. Originally, the public safety director also would have named a member, but the safety director position will be dissolved after Jan. 31.
At his promotion ceremony last month, new Police Chief Henry White said he welcomed transparency and believes that it will be found that his department operates in a professional manner. Allegations against officers already go to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, and there is oversight by the Attorney General’s Office.
The board’s duties would include establishing accountability — by investigating and hearing civilian complaints on police activity — and creating and utilizing an “early warning” or “at-risk” system to identify officers who have repeated complaints made against them.
But the board also would “protect officers from petty and vengeful complaints as well as protect the due process rights of officers engaged in the complaint process,” the ordinance states.
Atlantic City garnered national attention after a video showing a June 15 arrest outside the Tropicana Casino Hotel allegedly showed officers beating a 20-year-old Linwood man. Connor Castellani’s family filed suit against the officers and department in September.
National Action Network of South Jersey President Steve Young held a news conference before the Nov. 13 City Council meeting calling for several actions to be taken, including implementation of the board within 30 days.
That has not yet happened.
The amended ordinance — which is up for second reading Jan. 15 — shows how long the board has been planned. It has the two-year terms of appointed board members beginning Jan. 1, 2012.
Members would first have to pass a criminal history background check conducted by the Atlantic City Police Department.
If the board should find a complaint warrants a hearing, that would go to the “second tier,” which would consist of council members.
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