Wednesday, February 28, 2007
INDEPENDENCE -- An Independence resident is pushing for the creation of a community review board of the Independence Police Department.
He also wants the city's municipal court system to begin providing a legal record of testimony given during hearings.
Kevin Sicard, a Central School District board member, filed text for the proposed initiatives with City Hall last week.
Both issues were part of his platform during an unsuccessful bid to become Independence mayor in November.
"It's not like I'm doing this out of the blue," Sicard said.
"I think these are important for the justice and safety of citizens of, and visitors to Independence.
"That's why I'm moving forward with this."
The timeline for the proposals is contingent on a long series of steps in the state's guidelines for the voter initiative process, though Sicard said he wants them ready for the May or November election.
Officials must make certain the measures pass state constitutional muster, then create a ballot title and, if needed, offer a period of public review. Once the title and the explanation of the initiative is finalized, Sicard must gather signatures from 15 percent of Independence's voting population of roughly 4,000.
The city council will then consider an official version of the proposal. If the council denies it, residents will vote on it during a general election no sooner than 90 days after the matter first appears before the council.
Under Sicard's proposal, the community police review board would consist of six elected members who represent specific geographic zones inside the city limits, according to a preliminary draft of the initiative.
The board would hear and analyze unresolved complaints against police officers, and issue findings to the police chief. Such a system would provide "checks and balances," Sicard said.
"If officers misbehave, people have a place they can go to seek redress," he said.
Under Oregon's "court of record" format, an official court reporter or audio or video system records every word of a case. That record can in turn, be used in any appeal.
The state does not require municipal courts, which deal with traffic violations and lesser crimes, to be a court of record.
Independence, like many cities, currently does not offer case transcripts because of the additional personnel and equipment cost, said City Manager Greg Ellis.
Sicard said, "If this wants to be a town that treats people justly, it needs to allow them a voice, especially in their court. They should afford those individuals the right to appeal."
Sicard said both proposed amendments stem from some personal experiences with the city's police department and court system.
One involved fallout from a noise complaint citation in 2003. Sicard said he believes police made conflicting statements during his hearing.
Last February, Sicard was arrested after allegedly harassing and assaulting local police, starting with a series of calls to officers regarding what he thought was a suspicious vehicle in the department parking lot - later revealed to be a Monmouth police cruiser.
Sicard has argued that officers goaded him into calling 911 so they could arrest him and that they inflicted back and wrist injuries on him.
His trial is scheduled in Polk County Circuit Court on March 8. Two of the most serious charges, felony assault of a police officer and misdemeanor attempted assault, have since been dismissed, said Tim Park, a deputy district attorney.