Dear Citizens Police Review Board,
During my remarks to the CPRB on August 11th, 2010, as an appellant to the Viets complaint filed in the Kinloch affair, I asked CPRB member Susan Smith a series of questions, to wit:
1) Were any of the officers implicated in the complaint former students of yours?
2) How many current Columbia Police officers were formerly students of yours?
3) Do you think that this represents a potential conflict of interest?
To my questions, Ms. Smith replied, and I paraphrase 1) I don’t know, 2) I don’t know, and 3) I refuse to answer the question. Additionally, I note that in her answers to 1 & 2, Ms. Smith noted that it was impossible for her to know, since she teaches classes of 400 people and cannot be expected to remember all of her students. You may watch video of this interaction here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRRQHvmiMis).
The direction of my questions is clear; I think that the true answers to these questions might indicate a conflict of interest. However, I wish to begin by arguing that whether or not Mrs. Smith might face a conflict of interest in these proceedings, she is in clear violation of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) Code of Ethics, which is the binding legal code governing her participation on this board. Specifically, Mrs. Smith’s lack of clarity and refusal to answer implicates the standards NACOLE has created for Personal Integrity (emphasis mine):
Demonstrate the highest standards of personal integrity, commitment, truthfulness, and fortitude in order to inspire trust among your stakeholders, and to set an example for others. Avoid conflicts of interest. Conduct yourself in a fair and impartial manner and recuse yourself or personnel within your agency when a significant conflict of interest arises…
I should also highlight the NACOLE stipulation for Transparency & Confidentiality:
Conduct oversight activities openly and transparently providing regular reports and analysis of your activities, and explanations of your procedures and practices to as wide an audience as possible…
And additionally, the clause titled Outreach and Relationships with Stakeholders:
Disseminate information and conduct outreach activity in the communities that you serve. Pursue open, candid, and non-defensive dialog with your stakeholders…
I argue that Ms. Smith’s answers during the board meeting fail at meeting any of these ethical codes. It is clear that her answers do not meet the highest standards of personal integrity or truthfulness, and it is not clear that Ms. Smith has been forthright in avoiding the conflicts posed by her dual roles as an educator for law enforcement and an adjudicator for complaints made against law enforcement. Finally, it is abundantly clear that Ms. Smith has engaged me and other members of the public in a defensive and obfuscatory manner.
Specifically, Ms. Smith is a criminal justice instructor at Columbia College, and hence, an educator for students who may later be employed by the Columbia Police Department. A conflict of interest may not necessarily exist between a teacher and a former student, but the existence of any such relationships should be forthrightly declared to meet the NACOLE ethical standards. Moreover, even without the existence of any relationship that may compromise Ms. Smith’s ability to serve as a board member, Ms. Smith does have significant investment in her reputation as a criminal justice educator that may compromise her decisions on this board, especially if she is facing a decision that implicates her current, former, or future students with public disciplinary action.
Let me also note it is implausible that Ms. Smith should not be able to answer 1 & 2 in the affirmative; though she may teach large lecture classes, I do not find it plausible that she only teaches large lecture classes, or that she has never developed relationships with students. I ask that the board clarify Ms. Smith’s response to these points and discern if her answer during the board meeting is factually representative of the whole truth (that she only teaches large lecture classes, and that she does not know if former students currently serve on the police agency she sits in judgment on). I am also including an email (following page) from a former student of Ms. Smith indicating that she does teach smaller classes and does remember students as far as 3 years back as a further indicator that I do not believe Ms. Smith’s statements were plausible or in line with NACOLE disclosure standards.
Most importantly, it is clear to me that Ms. Smith has done very little to engage citizens and build trust. The NACOLE ethical code is designed with that highest aspiration in mind and it is my judgment that Ms. Smith does not meet this standard.
For these reasons, I ask the Citizens Police Review Board to evaluate the fitness of Mrs. Smith to serve as a voting member of the board and to consider her removal under Ord. (Ord. No. 20331, § 1, 7-20-09), particularly:
(e) The board may recommend to the city council that a board member be removed from the board if the member persistently fails to perform the duties of office.
Americans for Forfeiture Reform
||CoMo Citizens <firstname.lastname@example.org>
||Thu, Aug 12, 2010 at 1:39 PM
||RE: Request for Susan Smith’s removal from the CPRB
||hide details 1:39 PM (27 minutes ago)
I think that this letter is great, and if you have not sent it out please sign CoMoCitizens to it as well. I know for a fact that she does not teach large classes of 400. The classes at Columbia College only allow for 25 to 30, maybe a few more, students in a class at one time. As a recent graduate of Columbia College, I have experienced the small class sizes that Columbia College has to offer, and it is almost impossible to not get to know your instructor. As a matter of fact, Susan Smith remembered my wife who she had met 3 years ago only once. I think that it would be in the best interest of all Columbia citizens if we did not have such a biased individual on the CITIZENS Police Review Board. She has clearly shown her biases in previous Police Review Board meetings.