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Geneva police chief to participate in Police Review Board meeting this week

On Thursday, Geneva’s Police Review Board (PRB) will host Chief Michael J. Passalacqua of the Geneva Police Department (GPD) at their regular monthly meeting at the Geneva Housing Authority in Conference Room B. The meeting is open to the public and will also be available for virtual viewing through a livestream on the City of Geneva’s YouTube channel.

After being enacted into law on February 3, 2021 in response to community calls for its creation, the nine-member Police Review Board held its inaugural meeting on June 28, 2021. The Board has since been engaged in the process of developing the policies and procedures that it will follow as the first-ever civilian board of its kind in the city. The legislation that created the PRB sets out that the PRB will take in and review complaints from the public about the conduct of GPD officers and then—based on their review of such complaints—provide recommendations about potential disciplinary action and policy changes for the Chief of Police’s consideration. The ultimate authority for all police discipline rests with the Police Chief.

At this week’s meeting, the members of the PRB hope to gain an understanding of how the materials and procedures they have been designing will function in relation to the GPD’s current process for reviewing complaints. They are interested in discussing with the Chief how they can improve what they have developed so that these materials and procedures are as effective and useful as possible. In anticipation of this conversation, the PRB has sent documents—including drafts of a complaint form and disciplinary matrix—to the Chief, along with some questions that they would like to discuss. Disciplinary matrices are used by law enforcement agencies and other civilian law enforcement review boards across the country to ensure that similar complaints are adjudicated in a consistent, just, and transparent manner.

“I look forward to discussing the materials we have drafted and the procedures we have been designing with Chief Passalacqua,” PRB Chair Jess Farrell said. “Our Board is committed to bringing increased accountability and transparency to policing in the City of Geneva. If we are going to be successful in this work, since we are a purely advisory board, it is critical that we develop materials and procedures that Chief Passalacqua thinks will be fair and effective, and that he can trust will produce disciplinary recommendations that are worthy of his consideration. I hope this meeting is the start of a strong working relationship between the PRB and Chief Passalacqua for the benefit of the people of Geneva.”

PRB Vice Chair Theresa Johnson also expressed hope for a productive conversation with Chief Passalacqua at Thursday’s meeting. “I look forward to meeting with Chief Passalacqua and having an open and honest dialogue,” she said. “We recognize that there is still a divide in our community and are hoping to bridge the gap. It’s imperative to have Chief Passalacqua’s input and understanding on the policies that we have been working on. Our goal is to serve the community in an open and transparent way while we build a strong foundation for future Police Review Boards to come.”
In order to efficiently design the necessary materials and procedures to take in complaints and get the Board off the ground, the PRB divided into three committees. The Complaint Process Committee is responsible for developing the materials necessary to intake complaints, such as the complaint form and instructions, a timeline of the complaint review process, and the Board’s internal system for logging a complaint’s progress through review. The Review Process Committee is responsible for creating the disciplinary matrix. Finally, the External Communications Committee is responsible for designing materials and procedures to introduce the PRB to the community once the Board is ready to hear complaints, including an informational brochure and presentation which can be delivered to various community groups and organizations.

The PRB has also been participating in a variety of trainings to prepare them for the work of hearing complaints. This has included training covering basic information about the criminal justice system, how to conduct investigations, information about the impact of adverse childhood experiences, and implicit biases. The Board has also been familiarizing themselves with the policies, General Orders, and union contracts that govern the operations of the GPD.