City approves changes to civilian police review board

The city has approved changes to a civilian oversight committee that hears appeals of police department complaints.

The Columbus Board of Works on Tuesday approved a resolution reflecting updates made to the Audit and Review Committee. The committee, which was created 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 changes, which take effect April 1, include a new name for the committee, which is now known as the Community Police Review Board, said Mary Ferdon, executive director of administration and community development with the city. The name change is meant to better reflect the board’s purpose, she said.

The city has spent the past 18 months looking at the role of the Audit and Review Committee and worked with the African American Pastors Alliance, a group of leaders from five predominantly black churches in the area, on the updates. Columbus looked at 12 cities within Indiana and 14 others across the country that have civilian oversight processes or were ranked as best places to live in different categories.

The proposed updates were also shared with the public during two meetings earlier this year.

“We feel like there’s been a lot of good community dialogue,” Ferdon said.

Changes include the creation of an online submission form that will be posted on the city’s website starting April 1.

In addition, complaint forms and brochures will be made available at locations in Columbus beyond City Hall, such as the Bartholomew County Public Library and the United Way building. Those documents will provide a summary of the complaint process, Ferdon said.

“The goal is to make the process more accessible,” Ferdon said.

Six community members, who will serve staggered terms, will serve on the panel and will be appointed by the mayor. A representative from the Columbus Police Department and a Columbus City Council member liaison will also serve on the eight-member board.

Individuals who file a complaint will also have the option for mediation, which would be voluntary and free of charge, Ferdon said.

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