Burlington commissioners look for guidance on effective civilian oversight of police

Local News

The Burlington Police Commission on Thursday wrapped up training from a national organization on how to provide more effective civilian oversight.

Cameron McEllhiney, director of training and education for the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement., said police in communities with civilian oversight boards wonder how civilians can know anything about the specialized work that they do.

“Therefore, it’s very important for law enforcement to help develop the training so it’s not done in a vacuum,” Cameron McEllhiney said. “It also is one more way you can build some of those bridges and lines of communication.”

McEllhiney, who is from Minneapolis, said the Minneapolis Police Department helped develop the 20 hours of training new members of the city’s Police Conduct Oversight Commission are required to take.

“They also have 16 hours of ride-alongs,” she added. “Ride-alongs are such an amazing way to bridge that gap of understanding with the commission and police officers.”

Burlington police commissioners said they find it challenging to make more effective use of the tools they already have. One member also noted that she finds it a challenge to have an effective, respectful working relationship with the Burlington Police Department when the community is demanding change.

“The commission is seeing its role as being more substantive, but the police department — with no disrespect whatsoever — but they have been used to a system that is very different and I’m not sure how much our input is appreciated,” Ward 6 Commissioner Stephanie Seguino said.

Shireen Hart, co-chair of the commission, said she now sees why the community might perceive the commission to be an extension of the BPD. She added that the group can take immediate steps to help dispel that notion.

“We shouldn’t be meeting at the police department,” she said. “We should have portions of our meetings where we should be meeting alone in executive session to deliberate some of the things we have.”

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