Madisonville Council Passes Police Policy Changes

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Madisonville's city council has enacted a pair of policy changes with regards to its police department.

The two new forms come after a group of residents demanded the city address concerns of racial profiling. Those same citizens are still not fully satisfied with what has happened.

"I think that we've addressed those demands that were addressed to us, that were given to us in a public forum setting," said Madisonville's mayor, Scott Singletary. "This is our addressing that demand."

Both forms are available for viewing through links at the bottom of this story.

The first item is a consent search form, which citizens will now have a chance to sign saying they refuse a consent search, which is their constitutional right.

A consent search happens when authorities ask to search a vehicle without probable cause that there is something inside implicating criminal activity. Of total searches in Madisonville last year, statistics from a report filed by the city show 80 percent were consent, a number well above the state average.

The other form approved by the council would, in the case of an arrest or detention, release a vehicle to another person instead of that vehicle being towed, which would tack on an added fee.

In both cases, it is up to the officer on the scene to use discretion if the citizens are in a state capable of signing the form. For example, officers will not allow a drunk driver to sign off on the vehicle release form.

The dissenting two votes came because those councilmembers wanted more time to review the documents.

The Concerned Citizens of Madisonville group made the same request, saying they had only gotten a chance to look at the forms mere hours before the meeting. Representatives said they were not fully satisfied with the format of the documents, and that they were unhappy with not being consulted on the issue they had brought forward to the city.

Among the issues the group had with the consent form:

-Changing the title from "Voluntary Consent to Search" to include reference to a right to refusal in that title
-Check-off boxes to show consent to search or refusal
-A place for an officer to put their name and badge number
-Indication of the race of the person signing
-The location of the incident

Singletary said the documents were a step in the right direction, and that changes could be made in the future if needed.

Reaction from the activists ranged from outrage to some thankfulness for progress.

"The only thing I can say out of this is an old African saying, that in the court of chickens, only the roach never gets justice," said King Browning from the national American Civil Liberties Union, who came in from New York for the meeting.

"We can take some happiness that we have a consent search passed," said Kenavon Carter with HipHop Against Brutality, who has been working with the Concerned Citizens of Madisonville since their inception. "There still leaves a lot to be desired, and the statement today on behalf of the city council could have been a much more powerful statement."

Carter says the group will meet again soon to discuss the council's actions, and decide on the next steps.

Madisonville Police Chief George Sweetin did not comment on the changes, though he has denied his department is racially profiling.