Audit, review committee plays key role in police complaints

When local residents believe they have been wronged by city police, it’s important that a process for lodging complaints is available to them. Filing a complaint triggers an internal police investigation into the facts to determine if allegations can be substantiated. Critical in ensuring fairness in the process is an opportunity to appeal a ruling on the complaint to an impartial panel.

Fortunately, Columbus has had such a process in place since 1992, when the audit and review committee was established voluntarily by city ordinance.

The committee is composed of 11 local residents representing organizations such as the city police department, Columbus Human Rights Commission, the local NAACP chapter and the African-American Pastors Alliance.

When a complaint is filed, it’s assigned to a captain or special investigator to investigate and make a determination. However, the decision can be appealed to the audit and review committee.

The actions of police are under intense scrutiny nationally these days, and in some cases for good reason. Police are asked to protect and serve residents, an important responsibility and one that carries with it special powers. But if police abuse their power or make a serious mistake, the ability to hold them accountable is essential.

It’s good to know that the city has an important mechanism — the audit and review committee — in its process to provide complete redress for complaints.

With the nation’s attention focused on interaction between police and the general public after several with fatal outcomes, it’s possible that other cities have review processes that are different than what’s already been in place in Columbus. And if so, Columbus should take a look at them.

That the city has an established procedure that includes the opportunity for appeal, however, is a good foundation to have.