Georgia legislators have put forward a bill to create and then give extensive powers to a nine-member citizen-review panel to investigate law enforcement.
Members of this panel would probe the aftermaths of officer-involved shootings and also when someone complains about an officer’s alleged inappropriate use of force.
State Sen. Nikki Merritt (D-Grayson), the lead sponsor, refers to this proposed body as the Georgia Law Enforcement Citizen Review Council. Merritt and 12 co-sponsors did not return The Georgia Star News’ requests for comment Wednesday.
According to the language of the bill, the state commissioner of Public Safety would serve on the council. The governor, leaders of both houses of the Georgia General Assembly, the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, and the chief judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals would select the remaining eight members.
Council members could accept public or private grants, enter into contracts, and call anyone to testify under oath, according to the legislation.
Georgia Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge President Jamy Steinberg told The Star News in an email Wednesday that any type of review board must have a working knowledge of what they are reviewing.
“Any review board, if created, should be from local jurisdictions, not a statewide mandate. Many things mentioned in this bill are already in place in most agencies. There are procedures in place for complaints on individual officers and, at a minimum, the agency head can be contacted regarding concerns or complaints,” Steinberg said.
“The Georgia P.O.S.T. [Peace Officer Standards and Training] Council also investigates misconduct, terminations and ensures yearly compliance with Peace Officer certification and training. Additionally, the criminal justice system is in place on the state and federal levels, which enforce laws for criminal acts, which include citizens and peace officers alike.”
As The Star News reported last month, Georgia State Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex) filed The Police Accountability Act. That legislation requires that all law enforcement agencies provide body cameras to each of their officers on and after July 1, 2024.
The bill also provides “that law enforcement officers alleged to have committed misconduct or a violation of law while acting within the scope of his or her official duties or employment shall be subject to lawsuit or liability.”
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