Duluth Mayor Don Ness introduces the newly appointed members of the Citizen Review Board during a news conference on Friday at City Hall.
From left: Duluth police Chief Gordon Ramsay, Doug Bowen-Bailey, Pastor Gabriel Green, David Baker, Patty Behning Oakes, Renee Vannett, Katy Eagle and Blair Powless. (Bob King / email@example.com)
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Duluth introduced its new Citizen Review Board on Friday at City Hall, with community leaders saying the panel will help foster improved relations between police officers and the neighborhoods where they walk their beats.
Review board members, approved by the City Council last week, were introduced during a brief event at the mayor’s office.
“This is a great tool, a great addition to the city of Duluth,” Mayor Don Ness said, adding that the board will help foster dialogue between the department and the community at large.
More than 40 people applied to be on the review board, “and I’m happy with the balance we got,” Ness said.
The board will meet as needed to hear complaints but also will meet monthly to continue to foster relations between the public and the department, said Doug Bowen-Bailey, a member of the review board as well as a member of the task force that has met for five years to develop the board.
“We want to be proactive, not just reactive. We want to build trust,” Bowen-Bailey said.
The review board members include:
* Bowen-Bailey, a sign-language interpreter, educator and resource developer who has served on the Duluth Task Force for Improved Community Police Accountability the past five years, as well as serving on numerous committees and boards throughout the community
* Blair Powless, director of religious education at the Unitarian Universalist Congregational Church in Duluth. His background is in education and communication.
* Renee Kathy Van Nett, coordinator at the American Indian Community Housing Organization’s Cabinoo’Igan Shelter in Duluth. She served on the Duluth Indian Commission from 2009 to 2010.
* David Baker, unit manager at the Federal Prison Camp in Duluth. Baker has 20 years of experience with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
* Katherine Eagle, attorney at PAVSA. She is the first sexual-assault victim advocate to be housed within the Duluth Police Department. She serves on the board of directors for Lifehouse and is board treasurer for Mending the Sacred Hoop.
* Patricia Oakes, retired from the Duluth Police Department after 27 years of experience that included serving on the Lake Superior Gang and Drug Task Force. She has also served on boards for the Salvation Army, Community Action Duluth and Men as Peacemakers.
* Gabriel Green, lead pastor at the Church of Restoration in Duluth. He serves on the board of directors of Youth in Duluth and is active in the Lincoln Park Improvement Project.
The review board will include the participation of Police Chief Gordon Ramsay and the board’s secretary will be Bob Grytdahl, the city’s human rights officer and a former Duluth police officer.
“This has been a long, long process,” Ramsay said. “I think it will help us build relationships and trust within the community.”
Grytdahl, who has been calling for a review board for more than 15 years, agreed. Grytdahl said the review board will spend a lot of time learning about state laws, police training, police policy, human-rights laws and other factors that in large part determine police response to issues.
“This is really critical for when we have events and thing blow up in emotion and anger,” he said. “This is going to help people understand how the police do their job; why they do the things they do.”