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Port Allen council considers police oversight committee

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PORT ALLEN - A group of citizens demanding action after three unsolved murders in the last two years approached the city council Wednesday with an idea for more police oversight. The group, Justice for Fatrell, wants the Port Allen council to create a citizen oversight committee so residents can monitor police investigations and investigate community grievances leveled against the police department.

"The citizen oversight board can be very successful if properly implemented," said Justice for Fatrell Director Clerice Lacy.

The group brought with them the Independent Police Monitor for the City of New Orleans, Susan Hutson. She heads a $1 million department dedicated to building trust between the community and the New Orleans Police Department.

"Every time there's a critical incident, anyone dies in custody, anyone is hospitalized because of major use-of-force, we are there," Hutson told council members.

Hutson said officer involved shootings and grievances against police have dropped since her office began monitoring the New Orleans department.

"Policing is one of the most important functions of any city and if you want it done properly it needs to be done in an ethical, professional, and constitutional manner," Hutson told WBRZ. "You want quality policing and that's what oversight can accomplish."

An attorney for the City of Port Allen, Courtney Joiner, said there are major differences between their government and New Orleans. Port Allen has an elected and independent police chief and the city council may not have the legal authority to grant a citizen committee all the layers of oversight they want.

Joiner said he will consult with Hutson on the legal issues and then report back to the council in July. Councilmembers said it could be months before a proposed ordinance is ready for a vote.

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