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Covington council gives final approval to Citizen Review Board changes
OKs local company to enforce noise limits during Legion Field concerts
Covington City Hall - DEC2021
(Photo by Taylor Beck)

COVINGTON, Ga. — Covington City Council this week put the final touches on long-sought changes to the police department’s Citizen Review Board to clarify how it will act on complaints about officers if needed.

The council on Monday, March 20, voted on final reading to amend the 2021 ordinance that created the Citizen Review Board by adding specific deadlines for notifying the board about complaints of policy violations, such as use of excessive force; and other changes including an updated method for filling board vacancies.

The board was established by the council in part to foster transparency and enhance trust between police and the community. 

It was empowered to receive complaints and determine if actions taken by the police department were consistent with its policies and procedures and determine if any changes were needed.

Talk of creating a Citizen Review Board for the police department first began in 2016 to encourage city residents to feel more comfortable about filing complaints against police officers if necessary, city officials said in 2021. 

The council established the board in October 2021 after a group of ministers including Cobb, the Rev. Dwayne Stephens and the The Rev. William Gaither approached city officials in mid-2020 in the wake of rioting in downtown Atlanta following protests over the deaths of Black people at the hands of police in Minnesota and Kentucky.

Review Board members were to be appointed by each councilmember and the mayor. However, for a variety of reasons including the lack of a need to meet on complaints, the board has never filled all of its seven slots.

Changes made Monday night included allowing the mayor to make appointments to the board if council members are unable to find members to appoint within 60 days of a vacancy. 

The council also will be allowed to appoint someone to the mayor’s designated slot if the mayor does not appoint someone within the same time period.

East Ward council members Susie Keck and Don Floyd also voted Monday to appoint Danny Wisner to the board.

Other additions included:

• Requiring the board or the police department to forward residents’ complaints either receives about the use of excessive force to each other within two business days. 

• Requiring the department to provide its explanation about why it disagrees with any decision by the board within 30 days of receipt.

• Establishing two-year terms for each member.

• Allowing members 12 months to complete any courses taught in a Citizens Police Academy and participate in a ride along with an officer.

Despite one councilmember saying the board may not be needed, Councilmember Kenneth Morgan said he supported keeping the board in existence to be proactive about dealing with issues with the police department before such issues arise.

In other action, the council voted to hire its sole bidder to be a sound technician to assure live concerts at Legion Field stay within previously set noise limits for the city-owned venue.

The council voted to hire Covington-based Live Events Solutions to be the concert sound provider to enforce a 60-decibel limit at the venue on Mill Street. 

Council members' actions stem in part from complaints from neighboring residents about heavy bass noises emitted from a multi-act, reggae and pop music festival in September. Council later voted to halt Sunday concerts and car shows at Legion Field.

The council has required that all concerts comply with a 60-decibel limit on sound from the venue since a renovation of the decades-old facility was completed in 2016.

Community Development director Ken Malcolm had asked the council to hire a sound provider who would install devices that measure bass and voice levels — along with other parts of sound — from the Legion Field property line.

Malcom said Live Events Solutions had done similar work for the city during past music events on the Covington Square and Legion Field. He said the company assured city officials it "can provide the kind of equipment to deafen the sound away from the area," Malcom said.

The city will pay the company on a per-event basis depending on the size of the show. The promoter's rental fee would be set high enough to offset the cost, Malcom said. 

Also Monday, the council voted to approve final plat for the planned Ashford Park subdivision at the corner of Washington Street and Flat Shoals Road.

Site development for the 43-acre, single-family housing development for 188 lots in west Covington began in 2021. Developers said the homes would all be for sale to individuals rather than a single owner offering the homes for rent.

City officials and residents have expressed their concerns about the effect of rental subdivisions on property values — despite it being part of a growing regional and national trend.