CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – Centre County community members poured into Council Chambers both in person, and virtually, to seize the opportunity to make their opinions known on a draft ordinance for a local community oversight board for the State College Police Department.
Concerns swelled around how the board would be selected, while others questioned if it would truly serve those who need it most.
“We must remember that this oversight board was not called for by the population who have the privilege to believe the police function well and need no oversight. Unfortunately these are the same people who tend to use 9-1-1 as customer service, putting historically marginalized people at further risk,” said one resident.
As the draft is written now, the community oversight board would consist of 9 members that would serve for a staggered 3 year term, which is why some community members are already calling for inclusivity.
“I think the intention is that we don’t do business as usual anymore. And we’ve been fortunate to have many qualified educated people because we’re a university community, to serve on these boards and commissions. But this oversight board is not like that. This oversight board says this is not a club anymore. We’re opening up the community to a broad spectrum and that means the methods of communication and appointment need to change,” said another resident.
Ezra Nanes also joined in on the discussion. He’s concerned about the extent of the board’s power. Its roles would include monitoring incidents involving use of force or any complaints and allegations of officer misconduct, as well as auditing closed cases.
“What if something is seen in an audit or sitting in on an investigation that doesn’t ring true that doesn’t sit right? What can be done by the COB with that finding? How can it be pursued to actually remedy that question or perhaps pursue that investigation,” questioned Nanes.
Council members promise to address questions and concerns like these within the next two weeks on their website.
Another public hearing is already scheduled for July 28 at 6 p.m.
Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter for the latest local news, weather and community events that matter to you.