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Does Metro Police’s Use of Force Review Board carry any weight with the sheriff?

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According to a U.S. Justice Department review, 47 percent of Metro’s officer-involved shootings from 2007 to 2011 resulted in fatalities.
Chris Morris

Brush off your resumé if you’re interested in reviewing officer-involved shootings. Metro Police’s Use of Force Review Board has a few openings.

Six civilian members, including the co-chair, resigned within the last two weeks in a show of disapproval following Sheriff Doug Gillespie’s decision to overturn their recommendation to terminate an officer who mistakenly shot a man in the leg. Assistant Sheriff Ted Moody, who served as board chairman, also abruptly retired July 26—four days after the sheriff announced his decision to save Officer Jacquar Roston’s job.

The board, which is made up of 18 rotating civilian members and commissioned officers, reviews cases involving use of force and makes a determination as to whether the force was justified under the circumstances and department policy. Four civilians and three commissioned officers ultimately cast votes.

The recent turmoil, however, prompts this question: Does the Use of Force Review Board have any teeth, or is it window dressing for a department hoping to appear responsive to the community? Robert Martinez, the former co-chair who resigned last week, put it bluntly in his resignation letter: “As long as the person in charge of our brave, strong and ever vigilant men and women who represent our police force continues to bow down to the Police Protective Association, things will never change.”

The police union has refuted claims that it has more sway over the sheriff’s decision than civilian input, but Sandra Eddy isn’t so sure. Eddy, who became a civilian board member in April but hadn’t been called to review a case yet, also resigned. She likes the concept of the Use of Force Review Board but is skeptical its recommendations will ever carry much weight. “I’m just not as optimistic as some of the people who stayed that it will get better,” Eddy said. “I don’t want to waste my time, my energy and my emotions and have it turn out badly.”

Gillespie has named Assistant Sheriff Joseph Lombardo to replace Moody as chairman of the board, but the department has declined all subsequent interview requests about the resignations and plans going forward. Not surprisingly, questions about the board’s credibility quickly popped up August 2 when Metro leadership called a press conference to discuss the Valley’s most recent officer-involved shooting, which ended in the death of suspect Southaly Ketmany.

Undersheriff Jim Dixon responded: “We do listen to their opinions, but that is only part of the process,” he said. “When you’re on that board, you make recommendations to the sheriff.”

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