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Proposal to expand Lincoln police oversight board draws questions
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Proposal to expand Lincoln police oversight board draws questions

From the What you missed this week in notable Southeast Nebraska crimes and court cases series
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A proposed ordinance seeking to add two more members to the city's Citizen Police Advisory Board to increase its diversity drew questions about the mayor's motives at Monday's Lincoln City Council meeting.  

Each fall, several members of the seven-person police oversight board come up for reappointment. 

The terms of board members Cameya Ramirez-Rousseau, Roshan Pajnigar and Scott Hatfield expire Tuesday, and City Council candidate Mary Hilton questioned whether Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird planned to use those openings and the proposed ordinance to make five appointments to the board and pack it.

"The last thing our police need is an adversarial board instead of an advisory board," said Hilton, a Republican seeking an at-large seat in the 2021 election.

The board meets quarterly and oversees police policies, its general performance and investigates individual complaints about officer interactions. It has reviewed Lincoln Police Department use of force policy changes that arose after national and local outrage resulted in protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis during his arrest.

Mayoral aide Adelle Burk said Gaylor Baird intends to reappoint all three board members, and this was "no coup."

"She’s happy with the independence and the qualifications of the members on the Citizen Police Advisory Board," Burk said. 

Councilman Roy Christensen asked Burk what's wrong with the current seven-member body.

Burk said while the mayor believes the board reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of the community, expanding the board would allow it to further diversify.

For example, she said, the board could add another lawyer to join the one already serving.

At the meeting, Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said he and his officers believe the board works well considering members receive no compensation, and that he did not oppose the proposal to expand it.

The ordinance change would also make it easier for people to file complaints with the board by allowing people to complain online and extending the complaint window 15 days to allow people two months to make a report. 

The council will vote on the proposal next week.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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