The Greensboro Criminal Justice Advisory Commission (CJAC), another step in the city’s longstanding efforts to improve police-community relations, began to coalesce at its kick-off meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 20 at the Greensboro Cultural Center on North Davie Street.
The commission was authorized by a local bill pushed through the North Carolina General Assembly in the final days of the 2018 session by state Sen. Trudy Wade and state Rep. Jon Hardister, both Republicans. The bill gave the City Council the power to create CJAC to study best practices of police-community interactions in Greensboro and provided ways to reorganize the much-maligned former Police Community Review Board (PCRB), which will be replaced by a new board.
The old PCRB, which attempted to review complaints against police officers, was criticized by both complainants and police officers.
“Nobody was happy with the PCRB,” said CJAC member and former Greensboro City Councilmember Tom Phillips. “It didn’t meet anyone’s expectations. Some of those expectations weren’t realistic.”
The CJAC was created by a vote of the Greensboro City Council on August 21, 2018, and its members were appointed in August. It was organized by an executive committee led by Phillips, Irving Allen and David Sevier.
Allen is a community organizer and a leader of Black Lives Matter Gate City. Sevier is a retired naval officer who has been stationed overseas and worked with the US State Department – frequently, he said, in countries with violent, dictatorial regimes. He said, “The whole idea of justice is a big one for me.”
The new PCRB is a subcommittee of the CJAC.
Greensboro City Councilmember Michelle Kennedy is the City Council liaison to the CJAC.
Kennedy, too, said the old PCRB was unsatisfactory. She said she hoped the new PCRB will work fairly to represent both police officers and Greensboro residents who feel they are not well served by the justice system. She said she believes the City Council especially supports the CJAC’s larger mission of studying policing methods and systems used around the country to improve relations between police departments and citizens. She said, “The data this process can collect can be invaluable.”