Benton Harbor citizen review board is first in Berrien County

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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- The city of Benton Harbor becoming the first in Berrien County to have a citizen review board after being approved by the city commission.

It will consist of five residents who will investigate citizen complaints against police and Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis said it is part of a bigger mission to transform the department.

“People are calling for more transparency of a department, which I agree with, if you have nothing to hide there’s nothing to worry about,” said McGinnis.

The new volunteer-based, citizens review board in Benton Harbor will provide a fresh perspective when a public complaint is filed against the police and give recommendations to the department.

“We’ll have access to resources to make those recommendations to the city manager, the police chief, they have the option to appeal if they are not satisfied with what the solution is to the entire city commission,” said Gwen Swanigan, Founder & CEO of the SHARP Foundation.

Swanigan crafted the proposal – one Chief McGinnis was eager to get started – but had some areas that were off limits to the board.

“This has nothing to do with any potential disciplinary process of officers, their files won’t be opened up, it won’t be part of the due process that we have to follow for CBAs,” said McGinnis.

Now – the bigger task is picking the members who will need to be unbiased and qualified for position.

“The commission will be able to vet, there will be an application process and some criteria that they will have to meet,” said Swanigan.

And hoping this next step shows the community that they’re being heard.

“When it comes to the quote on quote blue wall vs what’s right, in Benton Harbor we’re going to do what’s right,” said McGinnis. “We need our citizens to trust us and know we have their best interest at heart.”

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