WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The city of Wilkes-Barre is trying to establish a system in which the public can hold the police accountable for misconduct.
It’s one of the recommendations Governor Wolf laid out for police reforms in response to the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. But opinions clash when it comes to how much power a review board should have.
Police reform was the topic of the Wilkes-Barre City Council meeting Thursday night. While one plan was rejected, another is still on the table.
Transparency and accountability between police and the public. A seemingly shared goal among Wilkes-Barre City Council members Thursday night. It was the first reading of Councilwoman Beth Gilbert McBride’s proposed draft ordinance for a citizens police review board. But council shut it down.
The proposed ordinance would give an independent board the ability to investigate allegations of police misconduct, and advise the mayor and chief of police on any policies and practices they should implement. Its members would be appointed by the Wilkes-Barre NAACP and NEPA Rainbow Alliance. The ordinance would give the board subpoena power.
“People don’t trust the DA’s office is going to give fair weight to a citizen’s complaint against an officer. It’s time to give power to the people, not politicians, not council, not the mayor. The people,” McBride said.
McBride’s proposed board was backed by the Wilkes-Barre NAACP. But the ball is already rolling on a different plan, Mayor George Brown’s police advisory committee and he says applications are starting to come in.
“They will have the authority to come up with ideas and also listen to the concerns of the people that will come before them and then make proposals and so forth,” Mayor Brown said.
Similar in principal, but different in execution. The mayor and chief of police will serve an advisory role. Seven committee members will represent diverse parts of the city such as African-Americans, Latinos, the LGBTQ community and Asian population.
“With the Governor’s new initiatives, the body cams that every police officer will be wearing and now this police advisory committee.. those three things that will help I think the residents feel better about the police department if they have an issue,” Mayor Brown said.
Mayor Brown does not need to go before council to form his committee. He is still taking applications and he says it will happen as soon as members are selected. Mayor Brown says he believes McBride’s proposed board would be too much, both in authority and cost.
He does not believe a group of citizens should have subpoena power and the city would have to budget for a solicitor, training, and legal fees.