BLUEFIELD — The City of Bluefield is in the process of restoring a Citizen Review Panel, which originally stemmed from a settlement in a 1998 federal civil complaint filed by the late Robert “Robbie” Ellison.

Ellison, who lived in Bluefield, was paralyzed when a city police officer was attempting to place him in custody following an incident at a night club on Jefferson Street in Bluefield. The City of Bluefield’s insurance provider agreed to a $1 million settlement in the civil case in 2000. Ellison died in 2002.

As part of his consent decree, previous stories said, Senior Status U.S. District Judge David A. Faber of the Southern District of West Virginia ordered the city to establish a citizens’ police review panel to review complaints brought against city police officers as part of the settlement.

However, the panel gradually fell by the wayside until a recent request was made to restore it.

City Attorney Colin Cline told members of the City Board during its Nov. 10 meeting an ordinance is needed for “codifying a Citizen Review Panel” and creating a standing body of members.

“We need to appoint members,” he said.

Cline said the panel will have five members, which will include no fewer than two from a minority and at least one of those African-American, one from the city board and one from the Bluefield Police Department or former member of the department.

The panel is “charged with providing civilian review of the investigations of alleged police misconduct undertaken by the City of Bluefield, including internal investigations conducted by the Bluefield Police Department. Such review shall be undertaken to provide advice and recommendations to the City of Bluefield calculated to improve the operations of the Bluefield Police Department and community/police relations.”

The city has already been soliciting requests from anyone interested in being on the panel with the deadline to make that request Monday. Those requests can be emailed to ccline@bluewv.org.

Cline said the panel members will be appointed in December with the first meeting set in January.

Each member will serve a three-year term.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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