What do the Police Advisory Panels do?
The city’s police advisory panels consist of the Independent Police Advisory Panel (IPAP) and the Police Complaint Committee (PCC). The goal of the panels is to develop and maintain understanding, trust and transparency with the Sarasota Police Department.
The Independent Police Advisory Panel
The IPAP was formed in 2011 and aims to foster public confidence and trust in the administration and operation of the Sarasota Police Department through enhanced transparency and accountability to the community. The panel meets quarterly and consists of five civilian volunteers who are appointed by the City Commission. The City Manager, the City Attorney, the Chief of Police, and the Administrator of the Police Advisory Panels provide staff support. The purpose of these meetings is to review and make recommendations to the Commission on major policy aspects of policing within the City, and to work with the Chief of Police to develop policies of the Police Department to maintain public trust (Ordinance No. 14-5082).
Some of the topics that the IPAP have advised on include:
• Domestic violence policy
• Law enforcement response to mental health
• 21st century policing
Over the next year, the IPAP will be researching topics related to:
• Officer safety and wellness
• Crisis response
• Civilian oversight in Florida
• Trauma-informed policing (domestic violence and sexual assault)
Police Complaint Committee
The PCC was ‘created to assist the Chief of Police with the policies, practices and procedures concerning the processing of complaints’ against SPD police officers. The PCC reviews closed complaints and makes recommendations to the Chief of Police for proposals to improve police/community relations. The committee meets monthly and has five civilian volunteers who are appointed by the City Commission. Staff support is provided by the Commander of Internal Affairs (SPD) and the Administrator of the Police Advisory Panels (Ordinance No. 11-4952).
Over the coming year, the PCC will be looking at ways to increase public knowledge of the complaints process at the Sarasota Police Department.
Who is the current administrator of the police advisory panels?
Heather Robison is a doctoral candidate at the University of Manchester, whose research focuses on identity and treatment motivation as experienced by criminal-justice involved mothers suffering from substance-use disorders. Heather conducted her research at the First Step Mothers and Infants facility in the City of Sarasota. She also holds a MPhil in Criminological Research from the University of Cambridge, where her college advisor was Professor Lawrence W. Sherman who is a leading expert in evidence-based policing research.
Before entering the field of Criminology, Heather graduated summa cum laude from Birmingham City University, School of Law. During her law studies, Heather interned with The People’s Law Office in Chicago, IL. where she assisted attorneys in a civil lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department over the torture of more than one-hundred African-American men in the 1980s, as well as with a final death penalty appeal in Indiana. Heather has also supervised students on the University of Cambridge’s Death Penalty Clinic and worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Manchester, teaching criminal law and criminal justice studies.
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