Update (2 p.m. Sept 16):
In response to ASCSU President Jason Sydoriak’s call for an on-campus citizen review board, CSUPD Police Chief Scott Harris said that there are already multiple measures in place to ensure that investigations against CSUPD officers are carried out appropriately.
“Typically, citizen review boards are advisory in nature, and do not have authority to create or change department policy,” Chief Harris said. “The current system in place has the potential to have more authority over the department and employees within the department than a citizen review board.”
Chief Harris said there is an average of 3 to 5 complaints made against CSUPD officers every year, which are all objectively investigated internally and from the broader university perspective.
“CSUPD prides itself on being transparent with the community that we serve,” Chief Harris said. “We are certainly always open to suggestions for improving our service delivery and criticisms when we do not perform to the level expected.”
Around the country, more and more communities are calling for heightened power for citizens to review police actions in their community. Fort Collins was ahead of the game — more than 10 years ago, it established the Citizen Review Board, which acts as an oversight on Fort Collins Police Services. Jason Sydoriak, president of the Associated Students of Colorado State University and chairman of the Fort Collins Citizen Review Board, wants to establish a similar board for the Colorado State University Police Department.
A Citizen Review Board is an independent group of community representatives who meet to review and discuss police policies and procedures in their local department. The Fort Collins board mainly deals with oversight in police investigations into citizen complaints, but it also makes recommendations to the department based on other police departments’ actions and policies. Recommendations are not binding, but rather provide an alternative perspective to the police on their enforcement procedures.
We are a progressive institute, and we should pursue progressive policy. -ASCSU President Jason Sydoriak
Sydoriak has served as chairman of the Fort Collins board for more than a year, and he said he believes a citizen review board would create an oversight of CSUPD actions and procedures. Student complaints would be handed over to internal affairs at CSUPD for investigation, and the board would ensure the investigation was carried out with dignity and fairness.
“We are a progressive institute, and we should pursue progressive policy,” Sydoriak said. “This is a democratic mechanism that holds administrations, particularly the police department, accountable for the missions and goals on their website, which they hold themselves to.”
A CSUPD citizen review board may have been able to ease the tensions that existed last semester between students and CSUPD campus service officers, according to Sydoriak. Former student attorney Robert Lowrey resigned in protest of Campus Service Officer enforcement procedures in 2014 after trying for three years to bring attention to unconstitutional actions against students.
It can do nothing but enhance trust between the community and their police department. -Chief John Hutto
CSUPD has reportedly changed the procedures with which CSOs respond to traffic and bike violations. The Collegian reached out to CSUPD and is currently waiting for a response on this.
“You had a lot of students who believed that the administration was not listening to their grievances about bike cops,” Sydoriak said. “This would have created a constructive space for those grievances to be consolidated and addressed.”
The Fort Collins Citizen Review Board is made up of representatives from different parts of the city’s diverse population. The proposed CSU board would contain no more than seven members who represent staff, faculty and students in making recommendations to CSUPD.
Fort Collins Chief of Police John Hutto said he openly and actively encourages accountability in police affairs.
“I think the primary value of a citizen review board is a measure of transparency, being able to tell our story in our community that our disciplinary process and our review of the actions of officers is transparent and that we are open to scrutiny on those things,” Chief Hutto said. “I am completely in favor of all the transparency we can do.”
City Councilman Ray Martinez serves as the council liaison for the Fort Collins Citizen Review Board. Martinez is also the liaison for the Affordable Housing Board, the Commission on Disability, the Planning and Zoning Board and the Youth Advisory Board.
“I think it is (the) best practice whether there are issues or not,” Martinez said. “You get a third party, in essence, to see whether they agree with the practices or not.”
On the possible establishment of an on-campus citizen review board for CSUPD, Chief Hutto said, “It can do nothing but enhance trust between the community between the community and their police department.”
Collegian City Beat Reporter Erik Petrovich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EAPetrovich.