The Mesa City Council plans to meet Monday with authors of the city’s 1967 charter in a quest for answers on whether residents should be involved in reviewing police uses of force.
City officials have been looking at the possibility of having residents serve on a police review board, a move prompted by a rash of police shootings last year.
The charter specifically prohibits a police review board made up of civilians, but some council members believe a minority of civilians would be permitted.
The charter was written by a 14-member "board of freeholders" as required by the state, and the council has invited the nine surviving authors to discuss the review board issue. At least six are expected to attend.
Earlier this month, Vice Mayor Claudia Walters met with four of the freeholders.
"You can see why they were involved in writing the charter," she said. "They were all good thinkers and they all think differently."
One freeholder, 88-year-old Louis Stradling, remains a passionate defender of the final sentence of the first paragraph of the charter’s section on boards and committees: "A civilian police review board is prohibited by this Charter."
He said it was added after extensive study showed letting residents in on the process of reviewing uses of force would undermine police authority, leading to lawsuits and a climate where officers don’t know what they can and can’t do in the line of duty.
Freeholder Pat Pomeroy said the ban was mostly Stradling’s idea. "We didn’t see any problem with it, so the rest of the freeholders went along with things," he said.
Pomeroy added that he has no problem now with letting residents have a role as long as the police chief retains control.
Pomeroy, Walters and 13 others were appointed by the council to examine whether and how residents should be involved in police oversight after last year’s rash of officer-involved shootings.
They recommended two civilians serve with at least three officers on the advisory boards called by the police chief to evaluate discipline and training after shootings and deaths in custody.