The recent hot flashes around the (CPRB) are in response to December L. Harmon’s 11-page proposal called New Model Concepts For The Citizen’s Police Review Board (2/22/22). The proposal is in response to SB26, which egregiously limited the board’s ability to do the oversight mission. Overall, the proposal reconceptualizes the oversight infrastructure and structure of the CPRB for the sole purpose of having independent investigations of misconduct and complaints. Harmon summarizes the oversight function of civilian review boards of eight (8) cities across the country and how they are funded. The need for public accountability of policing is a national issue.

Figure 1:Bodies

Just, last year, St. Louis Public Radio ran a series of stories on police accountability and reporter William H. Freivogel discussed how the city of St. Louis established “a new Office of Public Accountability, [which is] run by civilians with subpoena power to investigate all major cases of abuse and misconduct by police and corrections officers.” Mayor Tishaura Jones had to issue an executive order to make sure that all complaints made to the police department were forwarded to the Civilian Oversight Board.

On November 1, 2021, the Columbia Missourian summarized the impact of SB26 on the CPRB.

  1. Officers cannot be questioned by more than two investigators, meaning the Citizens Police Review Board can no longer call subject officers to questioning.
  2. Anonymous complaints are not actionable, though city counselor Nancy Thompson said the police "are likely to" give due diligence to the complaints.
  3. Records and proceedings related to complaints will be closed to the public and not subject to disclosure under the Sunshine Law.
  4. Citizens will have 10 days, instead of 30 days, to file an appeal after the police chief makes a preliminary determination about their complaint.
  5. Identifying information about the complaining witness will be available to the officer involved.

Chief Geoff Jones, members of Columbia Police Officers Association (CPOA) and their attorney Don Weaver, have become fairly apoplectic and unprofessional in their public appearances and responses to the proposal. They have assailed Harmon with verbal assaults using social media, and a blog and videos aimed specifically at promoting a false narrative through bullying. Consistently our law enforcement leaders prefer pernicious warrior-like battles of Us. Vs. Them – instead of engaging in deliberative meaningful discourse, which of course includes an ability to withstand critiques of their practice processes and outcomes.

From our perspective, it has been the case for some time that self-investigations of agency misconduct by the internal affairs apparatus of the Columbia Police Department (CPD), rarely conclude/concede that CPD officers are at fault for any misconduct. It seems CPD too often colludes with the Boone County prosecutor's office (and certain judges) to perpetuate malicious prosecutions against people of color and/or anyone they deem disposable, a threat to their authority or their outsized egos. 

Figure 2 (Bodies + Matter) = We/Us

Three Examples:

1) The story linked below appeared on July 11, 2022 via KOMU. Race Matters, Friends (RMF) does not think this incident is an anomaly. We find this type of malpractice to be a standard operating procedure that Columbia police chiefs have historically allowed while the CPOA lays ready to pounce and aid in the cover up using the police powers of immunity.

2) Recently, Dr. Mehrdad Fotoohighiam spent 5.5 years in jail behind a layered trail of malicious prosecution. Officer Steven Wilmoth who has appeared as a culprit in other cases; was forced to recant his false testimony as he was the detective on the case and as a consequence, he lost his private investigator license. But he told some vicious lies that aided his ex-wife's attorney (Helen Wade) in liquidating all of his personal and real property assets.

3) Officer Wilmoth was also the detective at the scene when Freddie McKee was found dead. The 911 call was supposedly missing and then found, and his death (a homicide declares his mother) was never investigated. Chief Jones refused to investigate the claim. We assumed this case was making its way through the courts -- but it's already done.

Another Example: an excerpt from NBC News on February 6, 2022:

Mother's desperate search for answers in son's death earns rare victory against police suggested that Ms. McKee’s activism had prevailed. However, Chief Jones and the CPOA made sure to use SB26 as a mechanism to shield Officer Wilmoth from any accountability:

“But perhaps most troubling, she [mother of Freddie McKee, Doressia McKee] told the review board, was how Wilmoth, who is white, suggested to her that people in the neighborhood were either drug dealers or liars, and therefore couldn’t be trusted, which she found demeaning and racist. Wilmoth filed a temporary restraining order against the city in October to prevent it from releasing other police records to Doressia McKee, who made a request for them in August 2020 in which she alleged police misconduct.

Wilmoth argues that the information involving internal investigations is protected under a state law passed last year [SB26]. In its response filed in Boone County Circuit Court, the city said it believes the records are expressly open. A trial is scheduled for March.”

“But perhaps most troubling, she [mother of Freddie McKee, Doressia McKee] told the review board, was how Wilmoth, who is white, suggested to her that people in the neighborhood were either drug dealers or liars, and therefore couldn’t be trusted, which she found demeaning and racist. Wilmoth filed a temporary restraining order against the city in October to prevent it from releasing other police records to Doressia McKee, who made a request for them in August 2020 in which she alleged police misconduct.

Wilmoth argues that the information involving internal investigations is protected under a state law passed last year [SB26]. In its response filed in Boone County Circuit Court, the city said it believes the records are expressly open. A trial is scheduled for March.”

The case was dismissed without prejudice on April 20, 2022. The blemished Kevin Crane was the judge, and Don Weaver the CPOA attorney, representing Wilmoth.

The CPOA used SB26 to shield Officer Wilmoth against Ms. McKee’s desire to understand how her son died, by refusing to conduct a transparent and thorough investigation. Significantly, CPD, advised by the CPOA, refused to provide documents and evidence that indicated a just and fair effort had been extended to understand how Freddie McKee came to his untimely death. As a consequence, CPD and their corrupt sibling the CPOA, have denied the McKee family any semblance of respect, compassion or human dignity.

SB26 is nothing but another shield for police misconduct.

We need bodies at tonight’s Citizens Police Review Board (CPRB) meeting to simply be witnesses and voices to speak up if the moment arises.

Traci Wilson-Kleekamp
Race Matters, Friends (RMF)

References: Art images by Traci Wilson-Kleekamp were inspired by thinking with:

Deleuze, G., Guattari Félix, & Massumi, B. (2019). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Bloomsbury.

Gumbs, A. P. (2019). Being ocean as praxis. Qui Parle, 28(2), 335–352. https://doi.org/10.1215/10418385-7861848

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