Newburgh counsel says police review board needs support

Nearly a year after Newburgh’s Police Community Relations and Review Board met for the first time after a restructuring that included expanded powers, the board is floundering and needs support, Corporation Counsel Michelle Kelson told the City Council on Thursday.

The nine-member board started fast, raising a regular quorum over its first few meetings and actually reviewing complaints, Kelson said. By the time summer came, the board began struggling with low attendance and an inability to field enough members to conduct business, she said.

In all the board received 12 complaints in 2015, with all but three investigated.

“Some of them have tried really, really hard to make this work,” Kelson said of the board members. “We’ve had some others who have not really been supportive, and it’s been difficult in the last few months to field a quorum to actually transact business.”

Under a City Council-approved restructuring, the PCRRB replaced what had been an 11-member and long-dormant Police-Community Relations Advisory Board. Ward representatives get to appoint two members each. The Council appoints the ninth member, who serves as chair.

It was a change driven by Newburgh’s own history of poor police-community relations and a spate of high-profile shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers.

Kelson said she had become de facto administrative assistant for the reconstituted board, sending out meeting notifications, copying meeting documents and recording minutes.

“Right now, if I’m not doing it, it’s not getting done,” she said.

Finding money to hire a part-time staff and to train the board were two issues discussed during Thursday’s Council work session. Some Council members suggested first having a discussion with the PCRRB’s board.

“I think that we should just review it and talk to the board members,” Councilwoman Cindy Holmes said. “I don’t think that we should just push out money to train them; we might find another training avenue.”

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    Leonard Sparks

    Leonard Sparks covers the City of Newburgh as a reporter for the Times Herald-Record newspaper. Read Full
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