GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – City leaders are working towards a more transparent Greenville.
Citizens, police officers, firefighters, and city leaders met Thursday morning to discuss the next steps in creating a new citizens review board.
They decided to expand the board from five to seven people, and they also voted to change the committee’s name from the Commission for fire and police practices to the public safety citizen review board.
“There’ll be maybe some trial and error, but we’re going to get it right,” Athena Miller, the city’s human resource director, said.
Dozens of people packed a room in city hall to talk about ways to make a true citizens review board work when it comes to relationships between law enforcement and the community.
“They want to be able to air their grievances in a respectful manner, but they also want to be able to have faith in that,” said Bruce Wilson of Fighting Injustice Together.
Wilson along with Black Lives Matter founder Derrick Quarles say they’ve always asked for a better citizen review board, but after protests blocked 385 in July is when they say the city started listening.
“We are committed to transparency,” Miller said. “We’re here to make sure the community knows what the board is, and we’re here to ensure responsible and accountable behavior.”
The current commission made up of citizens appointed by city council is supposed to hear internal police and fire complaints as well as citizen complaints, but hardly anybody knew the commission did the latter.
“In all honesty, we haven’t had many citizens come and speak on an issue they had,” Miller said.
The city wants to make it easier for people to voice their concerns. They even held focus groups with youth in the community to see how best to do that.
“There needs to be total trust,” Quarles said. “The police don’t trust the community. The community doesn’t trust the police, so there needs to be a conversation had.
Some say they would like to see the committee have more power. Right now, the committee mostly makes recommendations but can launch their own investigation if needed.
“If they don’t know where the complaint goes, It always goes to HR, and I do whatever I need to do to follow up,” Miller said.
She also said she responds to people the same day a concern is filed. However, the city manager is the final reviewing official.
The city says now they’ll focus on marketing the board to raise its visibility in the community.
“We are going to have to continue to monitor best practices and see how we can change to better the process,” Doug Webb, the chairman of the Commission of Fire and Police Practices, said.
Everything discussed at the meeting will go to city council for approval at workshop planned for later this month. Then, implementation will begin.
Greenville police chief Ken Miller told me added his department has also created a mediation center. It’s been operating since September, and they’ve already had one citizen against officer complaint they’ve worked out.