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Citizen Police Review Board In Fort Lauderdale Looks To Update, Expand

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City of Fort Lauderdale / Caitie Switalski
Christina Currie, board chair, led the Citizen Police Review Board presentation to the city commission Tuesday.

Fort Lauderdale city commissioners met for a special workshop Tuesday with the city's Citizen Police Review Board.

The issue of who's policing the police was the subject of a special online workshop in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday.

City commissioners in Fort Lauderdale met with members of the Citizen Police Review Board.

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"Please consider us a resource to improve our community," said Christina Currie, the board's chair.

The board, which has existed since 1994, is made of six volunteers from the community, and three employees from the police department. After this summer's protests and renewed cries for ending police brutality — and the city's own police officers in the national spotlight for hurting protestors with rubber bullets — the city is looking to update the ordinance that governs the board.

The move comes after the city removed its police chief, Rick Maglione, and replaced him with Interim Chief Karen Dietrich in July.

Currie told commissioners that she wants the citizen police review board to be able to review a broader scope of complaints, including less serious complaints, to have the opportunity to give a recommendation before some issues become severe.

"The more information that the board sees, the more we learn, the more feedback we can provide," she argued. "Then, we're not just seeing things that fall in the terms of 'the most serious.' We're seeing the things that are less serious. And then once something comes to us maybe we notice, 'Hey there's this big issue here, and let's fix it.'"

Robert McKinzie, the only Black city commissioner, shared his experience with police in the community.

"I often speak from my own experiences. I've been here for 50 some-odd years and I've had many, many interactions with the police where I was the one they pulled over. I was the one that had the bad experience, the bad relationship," he said. "But that didn't stop me from getting here as a commissioner and trying to develop a relationship to understand what it is that they do, and why is it they do the things they do."

McKinzie doesn't think the city should pat itself on the back, and said that the board needs more support.

"When I speak and I talk about how great my police department is, or our police department is — I want to be assured of that," he said. "And I think the way the board functions now doesn't give them the tools that they need."

The city plans to review how other places are handling citizen review boards, including what happens in Miami-Dade County. Commissioners will then talk about what the city management finds, at a future meeting.

In the meantime, the city's first public budget hearing is Thursday Sept. 3. Social justice advocates that have called for defunding the police or reallocating police funding include the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward.

The group specifically calls to redistribute $10 million from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department back into existing community programs.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, produces WLRN's midday public affairs program, Sundial weekdays at 1 and 8 p.m. Prior to transitioning to production, Caitie covered news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News for four years.