Preparing his midday coffee in the cafe just below his Liberty Street apartment, Ali Muhammad told Spectrum News he is bullish on the city’s latest version of its Police Community Relations and Review Board.
Muhammad was nominated by Councilwoman Ramona Monteverde to represent Ward 2 on the seven-member board.
“I’m excited to find out I’m going to be on this board,” the one-time mayoral candidate said. “And that it’s making great strides.”
The board will be tasked with vetting complaints against officers and recommend discipline, like previous versions of the board had done, but Muhammad is especially optimistic because “this board will have teeth.”
Some city council members are seeking subpoena power for the board, which would empower its members to seek personnel files, body-camera video, and testimony from city police.
“You give someone that subpoena power and now you’re having that officer come speak,” Muhammad explained. “It’s just time ... It’s just necessary.”
Mayor Torrance Harvey has also been pushing for subpoena power for the community board, which the council finalized after a 20-minute discussion at Thursday’s work session.
Leaders with the department’s officer’s union — the Police Benevolent Association — declined comment Thursday on the possible changes.
Muhammad believes some officers might actually want the board to have subpoena power.
That way, he said, an officer who reveals sensitive information before the board wouldn’t be seen as “telling” on other officers.
“If you didn’t do anything wrong, but you’re afraid of this blue wall or you’re afraid of whatever, here’s a way out,” Muhammad said. “Come tell the truth, because you’re not going to purger yourself.”
Councilwoman Monteverde told Spectrum News over the phone Thursday that fighting for subpoena power for the board “isn’t going to be my top priority,” saying that the new board members will make the biggest difference.
Previous versions of the board very rarely met because often times, four or more members would be absent.
In order to hold a lawful meeting, a board must have a quorum, which means more than half of its members must be present.
“We had so many people wanting to be involved," Monteverde said. “Now we have seven passionate members. There was no leadership before.”