Naked City

Police Panel Debuts

The police monitor citizen review panel met Oct. 7 for its first "critical incident" case review, listening to public input and deliberating over the fatal shooting this summer of Sophia King. While the meeting may lead to some answers about the King case, it has done little to quell skepticism regarding the monitoring process.

Public outcry in the wake of the June 11 shooting at the Rosewood Projects seems to have waned; only seven speakers signed up for the two-hour public meeting Monday night -- including King's mother Brenda Elendu and perennial police critic Ann del Llano. And aside from APD personnel and a handful of journalists, only about a dozen citizens attended. The panel -- seven members appointed last year by former City Manager Jesus Garza, along with Police Monitor Iris Jones, the nonvoting chair -- listened quietly to each speaker before retiring for deliberations. Five votes are needed to recommend to APD Chief Stan Knee that further investigation is necessary; the panel can also recommend an independent outside investigation. The chief can either accept or reject the findings, though in the latter case City Manager Toby Futrell may independently accept the panel's recommendations.

Jones said the panel's findings will not be made public until after they've been presented to Knee, Elendu, and APD officer John Coffey, who fired the fatal shot. According to del Llano, the oversight process as outlined in the APD's contract with the police union does not provide for any such provision. "That's just her interpretation," she said. During her three minutes of time, Elendu asked why she had never been contacted by anyone from Jones' office. According to the police contract, the monitor should conduct a videotaped conference with the "complainant" after APD's Internal Affairs investigation is finished but before any referral to the review board.

Finally, del Llano and others contend that policy recommendations already made by Jones over the last six months have yet to be made public -- contrary to open government provisions. Indeed, APD spokesman Paul Flaningan told The Daily Texan last week that Knee "has always welcomed the police monitor process, and in many cases recommendations from the monitor have resulted in policy change." Flaningan said Tuesday that these changes weren't exactly "earth-shaking," mostly concerned training issues, and weren't the result of Jones' investigations. "I don't think they were groundbreaking," he said. "I got that statement from [Assistant Chief Rick] Coy: [Jones] made some recommendations and we accepted them." According to city spokesman David Matustik, Jones hasn't made any recommendations yet, but will likely do so as part of the monitor's first annual report, due out in February 2003.

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