Town of Spencer creates citizen review board for police

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 12, 2020

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SPENCER — Spencer’s Board of Aldermen on Tuesday voted to establish a citizen review board for its police department.

The town board tasked Police Chief Mike James with creating the board, and he took it on willingly.

“I think this is a great way to improve the trust between our community, our citizens,” James said. “I think it will be a great thing and it will pay great dividends.”

James said a member of the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP has agreed to be a member along with a retired Catawba College professor, a retired Philadelphia police official, a Methodist minister and a local bishop. James said he is still recruiting for the board, but everyone he has spoken to agrees it should be created.

“They all agree that it will be a great exchange of information,” James said. “And I think it will enhance my ability to serve as the police chief for all people in our community.”

The board will have to elect officers, including a chair, vice chair and secretary. There will also be a roster of its members.

According to the charter creating the citizen board, its meetings will not be public, though “the CAB and sub-committees shall keep public records of all actions as may be required by applicable laws.”

In other news from the meeting:

• The board approved a request for $2,500 of funding from Spencer Hometown Holidays, a nonprofit that organizes the town’s annual holiday festivities. The nonprofit plans to hold a tree lighting and caroling event in December and also oversees holiday lighting in the town. A request during public comments said almost all of the funding would go toward lighting repair and the cost of building the Christmas tree structure.

• Budget officer John Sofley said all departments are in good shape financially and the town’s finances for the month are unremarkable, which he described as a good thing in this case.

Board member Sharon Hovis noted the police department needs funding for tasers. Interim Town Manager Dave Treme said his practice is to get the first six months of the fiscal year in then make estimates to the end of the year. He advised using some COVID-19 relief funding for expenditures on capital items such as fire and police equipment as well as some salary items.

Treme said the board has done a lot already to get equipment the town needs, though it can not make all the purchases it needs in a single year.