The administrator for two civilian review panels for Sarasota Police briefed the Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations Saturday morning on the first year of citizen oversight of city police.
Peter Graham oversees two police oversight panels:
- The Independent Police Advisory Panel meets once every three months, and is concerned with general policy. The five-member board is looking at domestic violence, and how to assist City Commissioner Willie Shaw’s initiatives to fight crime in Newtown. The group will meet next on Jan. 13 at Sarasota City Hall.
- The Police Complaint Committee meets monthly to review how internal affairs investigates complaints about police conduct. “It has had six meetings, and looked at 22 reports. Generally speaking they’ve found the investigations were competent and professional,” Graham said. The complaint committee is looking at a series of proposals to present to Police Chief Mikel Holloway. Its next meeting is Jan. 17 at the Federal Building conference room, Orange Avenue.
“Both groups (offer) opportunities for citizens to come forward and speak,” said Graham. His office also receives citizen complaints, which it forwards to the police internal investigations department.
Graham’s telephone number is 951-3622.
“As I look back over the past eight months, I’m struck by one fact: Most of the matters that come up for scrutiny, if restraint had been applied on both sides, we (would) have no need for an expensive investigation,” said Graham. “My message to the community is restraint, restraint, restraint.”
John Souce, representative of Park East on the city’s north side, asked: “Why are we sending ?” One of Commissioner Shaw’s ideas is to take police and community leaders to High Point, N.C., for a case-study look at how a similar-sized community beat a crime wave. Graham said, “It does seem to me the situation in Newtown requires us to take every possible action to put it right. If it takes a trip up there, let’s have it done.”
Valerie Buchand with the Janie Poe Neighborhood Association in Newtown was not impressed with the effort so far. “The one time I visited your meeting, it was pathetic to me. You had this arrogant police officer talking, making derogatory statements about the citizens, and nobody around the table voiced any concern,” she said. “I’m totally in the dark about what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Graham said: “I don’t think the (City) Commission set up the complaints committee as a court of appeal. We have to do our business the way it is being done now.”
Graham urged greater community involvement in both panels, and was supported by Linda Holland from Gillespie Park. “I have attended both of the panel meetings. Often I’m the only person there,” she said. “The community needs to be more involved.”
Graham will offer a similar presentation to the Sarasota City Commission later this spring.