Editor's Note: This article was written in response to a question submitted through Open Source. The reader asked us for information about civilian oversight of the Mansfield Police Division.
MANSFIELD -- As protests about police brutality swept across the country in the wake of the law enforcement killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, the question was asked: Is there civilian review of complaints against Mansfield police?
The answer is yes, through the Police Review and Community-Police Relations Commission, created by City Council in 2003.
The seven-member panel normally meets every other month in public session, though it hasn't met since January due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its next meeting is scheduled for June 18 at 6 p.m. in City Council chambers.
Current members of the commission are Bill Freytag, Teri Marlow, Patsy Rambo, Mary Haynes, Chancy Bragg Sr., Robert Chapmon and Pam Williams-Briggs, who also serves as the board's seceretary, according to Mansfield Safety-Service Director Lori Cope.
Each member is appointed by City Council to two-year terms with a maximum of four consecutive terms.
Freytag said the committee has reviewed 19 complaints from 2019.
"They lag behind because the department completes their investigation of the complaints before we see them, so there still could be more for 2019 since we haven't met since January," he said.
Freytag said there is usually little public attendance at the sessions.
"The complainants are notified of when their cases will be heard, but I can count on one hand the number of times a complainant has showed up to present their side of the story," Freytag said.
According to the City of Mansfield website, the commission reviews completed investigations of the police department which involve department-citizen contact.
"The review of any specific Division of Police investigation shall not take place until the investigation of the complaint is complete, provided that no records may be reviewed by the Commission that contain information that is confidential or their release is prohibited by state or federal law," the website states.
"In cases where charges are filed against the (police department) employee, the Commission’s review shall not be conducted until the disciplinary process has been concluded by a hearing before the Director of Public Safety.
"If criminal charges are pending against the citizen who filed the complaint or any person who is directly involved in the allegations of the complaint, the Commission shall not review the file until the prosecution of the case through trial has been completed," the website states.
Cope said the commission maintains its own notes and minutes.
"Their sole purpose is to confirm that the police conducted thoroughly any investigation; and they have no authority to make any determination as to disposition," Cope said.
Residents wishing to file a complaint must do so in writing to the commission on a form they must sign. Complaints can be presented to any commission member or the clerk of City Council.