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After Years Of Debate, Fort Worth Police Chief Creates Advisory Panel

The Fort Worth, Tx., police chief proposed a version of a civilian oversight board that some city leaders and activists say lacks the independence needed for true police oversight and reform. Three months after City Council members voted down a proposal, Chief Neil Noakes proposed his own version of the board on Feb. 7, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Noakes said his proposed Community Advisory Board would bring the community and police department together to create “long-lasting solutions.” Council members and community leaders seemed taken aback by the chief’s proposal, especially because Noakes announced he had already selected 13 of the 19 possible board members. After Noakes finished his presentation, several council members said they were concerned about the lack of independence and community input in the proposal. Councilwoman Gyna Bivens said that “it was a slap in the face that members of color on this council have been strategically left out of this process.” For years, some city leaders, activist groups and community members have called for oversight of the police department, especially amid protests after a then-Fort Worth police officer shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old Black woman, in her home in 2019. Because the chief created the board, the council will not vote on whether it will be implemented The Community Advisory Board will be active as soon as all the positions are filled.

Community members have been calling for effective police oversight for decades. Calls for a civilian review board began in December 2016, when a viral video of the arrest of Jacqueline Craig sparked outrage. Craig had called police to report that a neighbor assaulted her seven-year-old son, but she and her two teenage daughters were arrested instead. The arrest was the impetus for the formation of the Race and Culture Task Force, which investigating racial inequities and made 20 recommendations in 2018, including some form of civilian oversight that would “have an active role in police accountability and oversight.” In 2020, the city started the Office of Police Oversight Monitor to set criteria for the proposed review board and provide its own oversight of the department. The creation of a truly community-driven oversight board has been elusive. City leaders have largely disagreed on the specifics of the board’s operations. Some council members argued there was no need for the board at all. On Nov. 8, a version of a civilian review board was put to a vote. The proposal was the culmination of years of revisions and recommendations from a working group overseen by the Police Oversight Monitor. Young, who was part of the working group and fought for a more independent board, said the result was a “watered-down” proposal that had taken the teeth out of effective oversight.


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