City considers changes in oversight committee

The racial makeup of a civilian oversight committee that hears appeals of police department complaints could change under a proposal by the city.

The Audit and Review Committee, established by a city resolution in 1992, becomes involved once an appeal is filed by an individual if he or she doesn’t agree with the police department’s administrative findings following an internal investigation. The resolution signed in 1992 provided for membership to the committee based on personal characteristics/qualities and organization affiliation, said Aida Ramirez, director of the city’s human rights commission.

A membership seat on the panel was reserved for Bartholomew County’s NAACP president as part of the resolution, Ramirez said. In January 2015, former Mayor Kristen Brown made an amendment that allowed an additional seat on the committee to be held for a member of the African American Pastors Alliance, a group of leaders from five predominantly black churches in the area.

However, in revisions being considered by the city, Ramirez said the two groups would not have reserved positions on the committee.

That change was among several presented earlier this month by the city during a two-hour public meeting at the Donner Center. Under the proposal, five community members from a total of seven members on the committee appointed by the mayor shall represent the diversity of the community and must be residents of Bartholomew County.

Four voting members of the current committee, which serve three-year terms, are African-American: Stella Collins, president of the Bartholomew County chapter of the NAACP; Pastor Steve Millon, designee with the African American Pastors Alliance; resident Ric King, who serves as chairperson; and fellow resident Annette Barnes. The fifth appointed voting member, pastor Dan Mitchell from The Sanctuary Church in Columbus, is white.

Ramirez said there is a need to get more people involved, noting that there are no Latinos — who make up 5.7 percent of the city population — currently on the board. There are also no Asians, the largest minority in the city with 9.5 percent of its population according to a 2016 estimate. Blacks make up 2.8 percent of the city population while whites make up 82 percent.

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Republic.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com