Mayor Toby Barker has announced the first slate of community members, who, depending on approval from Hattiesburg City Council, will serve on the recently-instituted Hattiesburg Police Citizen Review Board that will provide perspective and feedback to Police Chief Anthony Parker on procedures, training, programs and standards.
The nine-member board, which was approved at the Nov. 3 council meeting, also will provide feedback and recommendations regarding allegations of critical incidents, such as alleged officer-involved incidents of false arrest, false imprisonment, excessive use of force, serious bodily injury or death.
“Over the summer, many honest conversations developed around the themes of social justice, accountability and the need to foster stronger relationships between law enforcement and the community,” Barker said. “In Hattiesburg, many voices came together to turn dialogue into action.
“I am grateful to all the individuals and organizations who had a part in shaping this Citizen Review Board, and I know the individuals whom I have appointed will serve our city with great care and concern. This board has the potential to greatly enhance trust, mutual respect and innovation when it comes to our community’s approach to public safety, and I look forward to seeing all it will accomplish.”
Eight members are appointed by Barker and one is designated by the Forrest County Branch of the NAACP, as outlined in the board’s enabling legislation. These members include:
•Michelle Shinall, appointed from Ward 1. She serves as assistant director for marketing and campus relations for the University of Southern Mississippi Physical Plant.
•Edward Hargrove Jr., appointed from Ward 2. He serves as general manager at Pyro’s Fire Fresh Pizza in Hattiesburg.
•John Chain, appointed from Ward 3. He is owner of JW Chain Investments, LLC; JWC Marine, LLC; and Shoreline Marine Group, LLC.
•Martha Allen, appointed from Ward 4. She serves as executive director at Extra Table.
•Jennifer M. Garriga, appointed from Ward 5. She serves as hearing customer service specialist at the Social Security Administration Office of Hearing Operations.
•Rev. Arthur Siggers, appointed from the faith-based community. He serves as senior pastor at Mt. Olive Baptist Church.
•Sandra Silvain Sossa, appointed from the business community. She serves as human resources clerk at Mar-Jac Poultry.
•Rusty Keyes, appointed from the law enforcement and legal community. He serves as Police Chief at the University of Southern Mississippi.
•Ken Chambers, appointed as designee of the Forrest County branch of the NAACP. He is the owner of Chambers and Associates, LLC.
“Their goals coincide with what I have advocated my whole tenure as police chief, and that is transparency, accountability, and advancing new ideas for Hattiesburg police,” Parker said at a recent Hattiesburg City Council meeting. “I believe the police department should be responsive to input from the citizens.
“This board will give the average citizen a voice to express their complaints, concerns and ideas to a mutual party, and that’s the most important aspect of this board, is that it is a neutral party. A lot of people have mistrust of police, and this board will help in debunking any misconception, which means it will help bridge the gap in communications between the Hattiesburg Police Department and the community we serve.”
The board will not be involved in any recommendation or appeal related to the disciplinary action of police officers or personnel. An incident may be reviewed for the purpose of considering any changes to the policies and procedures used in an investigation going forward, but only after Parker has made his decision and when any appeal time to the Civil Service Commission has passed.
The board, the members of which will serve staggered four-year terms, will be allowed to provide recommendations to Parker regarding the needs and the expectations of the community as it relates to the police department. They are also allowed to provide community members with information about policies and procedures.
However, the City of Hattiesburg does not have the legal authority to create an independent board with subpoena or investigative power without specific statutory authority from the Mississippi Code.
In accordance with the Mississippi Open Meetings Act, meetings of the review board will be open to the public. There may be occasions when the board will go into executive session as permitted by the act, but it is anticipated that those occasions will be rare.
Barker said the review board would be different from the Civil Service Commission in that the commission only deals with personnel matters. For example, if disciplinary action were to be taken, the accused could appeal that charge to the commission.
“The civil service also handles promotional testing, and approving to start another academy,” he said in a previous story. “This (review board) would be in specific actions taken."