Protesters: Orlando Police Department's citizen review board should have more power

As protests in Orlando and the nation continue for a second week, you've probably heard a lot about the formation of citizen review boards to oversee policing policies and review misconduct. 

While many cities are just now considering the idea, the Orlando Police Department has had one for several years.

However, on Friday, Chief Orlando Rolon said the board only has the power to make recommendations, not real decisions.

"Their powers are very limited, but we do take their recommendations," he said at a virtual town hall.

Through several days of protests, participants have said that should change.

Community activist TJ Legacy Cole said he specifically wants the review board to have power when it comes to officer discipline.

"It's just a glorified listening session, and police officers are still using excessive force," he said.

FOX 35 News spoke with the vice chairwoman of Orlando's citizen review board.

Although she does not speak for the entire board, she shared her opinion on the matter.

"I have the same frustrations," said local attorney and vice chairwoman Caila Coleman. "I've been to the protests. I've heard people speak on the same issue, saying 'we don't have any teeth,' and we don't."

The citizen review board meets once a month.

The group even had a hand in the implementation of body-worn cameras for Orlando police officers years ago.

According to Coleman, after an internal affairs investigation closes, the citizen review board reviews it, makes sure the investigation is thorough and brings up any concerns.

Coleman said many times, the investigations are well done.

However, they have no control over what happens afterward and no say when it comes to discipline.

"There are times where officers may have had a complaint that was valid and sustained, but they might only get a few hours of paid leave as their punishment," she said. "We've made suggestions about what could be done, but unfortunately, it's stuff within the [police] bill of rights and the union that hold up their punishment. So, we have no say over what happens."

Coleman suggests people attend the review board's meetings.

They happen on the first Wednesday of every month at 8:30 a.m.

"Please come," she said. "If that's something you are concerned about, the police review board not having more teeth, come tell everyone about it. Because we want more teeth, too."

FOX 35 News reached out to the Orlando Police Department's union to ask how this kind of change could impact officers.

The union had not responded when the story was originally published.