Grits learned today, though, that their list was incomplete. Galveston has a civilian review board which analyzes the sufficiency of Internal Affairs investigations into serious police misconduct. But the Galveston's board is overtly designed as an advisory committee to the chief, not as an independent oversight body. I spent a little time in the Galveston Daily News archives to research them further.
The board was created in 2008 and touted as a boon to transparency. But the police union fought it tooth and nail from the beginning. Wrote Galveston-Daily News publisher Dolph Tillotson in 2008 in response to their shenanigans:
My old friend John Bertolino and other members of the Galveston police union are at it again.
They’re demonstrating — again — that if they can’t win a fight on its merits they’ll resort quickly to fighting dirty to threats intimidation and scare tactics.
That rings familiar. Indeed, Tillotson's assessment of union opposition to civilian oversight in 2008 could have been said in 2020 about police-union demagoguery in Austin, Houston, and elsewhere across the state and nation: "Then and now the effort to embarrass and intimidate was just a way to distract Galveston voters from the real issue — the behavior of the police." That's essentially an evergreen quote.
The union continued to undermine Galveston's board over the years until finally the City Council suspended it in December 2019 in response to supposed privacy concerns. The board was reinstated in February with new requirements:
The city council approved changes that will require board members to get the consent of officers to review their personnel files, prohibit board access to information designated confidential and make the board’s recommendations an open record.
The changes also require the board’s meetings to be posted by the city secretary’s office, as other city committees are, and make attendance by anyone other than city staff or board members subject to police chief approval.
By the time it was suspended last year, the board seemingly had not had a publicly posted meeting since 2014, despite being required to meet four times a year and provide quarterly reports to the city manager and the city council. The board would only meet when it had a specific investigation to review.