Mayor Rocky Anderson wants to add some teeth to a citizen panel that investigates Salt Lake police officers' conduct.

Anderson plans to present the City Council with a proposed ordinance in the next four to six weeks to revamp the volunteer Police Civilian Review Board, which he calls a failure.

"It is completely toothless. It has no power or authority to review individual cases. It completely relies on Internal Affairs. The system has provided only a pretense of review," Anderson said Friday at a public meeting.

The mayor is not the only one who thinks the current board is inadequate. The police administration and the officers' union agree the review board does a poor job looking into allegations of officers using excessive force and complaints against the police department.

If the City Council approves the ordinance, the mayor would disband the current review board and appoint new members. Anderson does not blame failure on the board members but on a poorly written city ordinance. Anderson's two main changes would involve the board's membership and how it conducts investigations.

The current review board has seven members who are not required to participate in training, although some members have received training. Since they cannot conduct their own investigations, they use information provided by the Internal Affairs Division to make recommendations.

Anderson's proposed ordinance would double the board's membership. Each member would be required to take a training course, including riding with police officers for at least 15 hours and receiving instruction from Internal Affairs.

When Internal Affairs hears of a complaint, the board would immediately receive notice. The board would then randomly select five members to participate in the review in conjunction with a new independent investigator.

The investigator, hired by the mayor, would work with Internal Affairs on investigations, share information, conduct joint interviews of all witnesses and decide together who to question.

"This process seems to make the board a little more interactive with the police," Salt Lake police officer Derek Coats said.

The investigator would report back to the board, and the board would use the information to make a recommendation to the police chief. The chief has final say on all disciplinary actions.

To ensure that board members understand the law and law enforcement procedure, a retired officer would act as an adviser.

Anderson said the changes would not only increase public confidence in the police department but protect officers from discriminatory discipline.

He fielded questions and took suggestions from the public Friday on how to improve the ordinance. He said he will work the suggestions into the proposal before it reaches the council. After hearing from the public, Anderson said his proposal will include provisions requiring a diverse membership, ongoing training, cultural training and a protection for officers who are subjects of erroneous complaints.

The proposal received the backing of Carol Gnade, ACLU executive director. Gnade has been critical of the current review board, which she perceives as weak.

"This is far better than anything we have ever had in Salt Lake," she said. "It is great to have an investigator to focus on this issue."


E-mail: mcanham@desnews.com