Over the past couple of months, members of the Community Police Advisory Board have been learning about the Fayetteville Police Department, its policies and procedures and other information they will need to carry out their roles.
The board, which has nine members and one alternate, was established in August by the Fayetteville City Council with the mission of making recommendations to “improve the quality of policing in Fayetteville in a cooperative effort between the community and the police.’’
The group has met three times, including an initial introductory and orientation meeting on Feb. 2. Its next meeting is scheduled for April 20.
In that time, board members have received a Cliff Notes-like crash course on departmental details.
The board does not operate as a watchdog, City Manager Doug Hewett said.
It is meant “to advise and also help give information on how our practices and operations impact the public to help us understand the needs of the public as well as be an advocate for both citizens and police officers with City Council and the city manager,” he said.
The board members are the Rev. Lionel E. Cartwright; Pablo Arroyo, a probation parole officer at the N.C. Department of Public Safety; Julie M. Aul, a physical therapist; Jim Bove, a spokesman for the Air Force; Jacqueline H. Clay, a Fayetteville resident; Tony Haire, a coach, teacher and speaker; Sidney P. King, a Fayetteville resident; Gregory E. Perkins, a mental health counselor; Debra M. Slaughter, a local resident; and alternate Juana A. Mangum of Fayetteville.
One of the things the board has discussed is holding community forums to hear from residents about issues related to the Police Department.
“I encouraged them to do a community forum,’’ Hewett said. “I envision in the next couple of months when we have time set aside on the agenda that the board will listen to citizens who have issues related to the police and citizens advisory board.’’
Cartwright is the board chairman, and Hewett oversees the meetings. The board is expected to meet on a monthly basis. Its meetings are open to the public, and it can go into closed sessions for specific reasons.
Additional meetings may be called to provide advice and counsel during incidents such as an officer-involved shooting or in-custody death, according to the board’s charter.
Hewett has said he wants the board to have a clear understanding of its goals and objectives sometime by the July time frame, Cartwright said.
“Not to say we’re waiting for the July time frame to listen to what the public is saying,” Cartwright said.
Cartwright referred to the board as being “in its nurturing stage.’’
“I think that’s a good thing. No need to have a board rushed into something because we don’t really understand what we’re being asked,” he said. “I think it’s very important that we be fair-minded. Listen for clarity to what the citizens are saying. We can also listen with clarity to what the police are saying. We’re also looking at policies and procedures.”
Cartwright said he believes the board is headed in the right direction as it continues to follow the guidelines laid out in the charter.
According to the charter, “The mission of the Community Police Advisory Board is to provide sound advice and recommendations to the City Council, city manager and police chief to improve the quality of policing in Fayetteville in a cooperative effort between the community and the police. (This will be done) by reviewing and recommending policy enhancements to better meet the needs of the community, provide and support a training curriculum that allows for police and community experiences to be shared and understood with greater context, and analyzing existing public records all of which results in improved perception of procedural justice, and enhanced trust of the police.’’
In addition to reviewing policies and procedures, board discussions have included how to access data from the Fayetteville police portal, a grounding on the basics of North Carolina criminal law and how to engage the public. They also have heard about the Police Department’s hiring process and retention and recruitment of officers.
The board has heard from Police Chief Gina Hawkins and senior police staff.
“Since we have just been sworn in, we have recently been given our charge and responsibilities. And if you recall, we have only been organized for two months. And we have only met for those two months,” Cartwright said. “Several of the board members are now enrolled in a citizens police academy, and I think that’s a good thing because it gives them an understanding when you say, ‘Community Police Advisory Board.’
Other board members have signed up to ride with police to gain a better understanding of what uniformed officers do while policing the city.
“And I think that’s so powerful from the standpoint to get individuals who have never had any experience, never set on a board as this board is. It gives them an understanding of what the Police Department does, what are their policies and procedures," Cartwright said. "And I think that’s healthy because we don’t do anything blindly.”
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.