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State College unveils new police complaint process

Plus: More fallout from Penn State's cancellation of promised racial justice center

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This is Talk of the Town, a free weekly newsletter delivering top news from State College and the surrounding region.


November 17, 2022
Inside this edition: A new State College police complaint process, more fallout from Penn State's cancellation of its promised racial justice center, and will Democrats take control of the Pa. House?
 
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Police Oversight

On March 20, 2019, a State College police officer shot and killed Osaze Osagie, a 29-year-old Black man experiencing a mental health crisis.

The shooting marked the first time in State College Police Department history that an officer killed someone. The community responded with outrage, sparking a series of follow-up actions by the State College Borough Council.

One was to establish the Community Oversight Board, a group of civilians tasked with oversight of the police. That board was empowered to create a new civilian complaint process, through which it could “receive, process, and investigate complaints about the (police department) from members of the community.”

On Nov. 10, the board approved that process, and it is expected to be open to the public in January. Here’s how it will work:

What information is collected about the person submitting the complaint?

People submitting complaints have the option to submit them anonymously, though they are asked to provide contact information either way. Third parties can submit complaints on behalf of someone else.

The Community Oversight Board Complaint Form also asks for the gender and racial/ethnic background of the person submitting the complaint, but this information is not required.

The form asks the complainant to provide the location, date, and time of the incident; the name of the police officer or department employee, their badge number, a description of the officer/employee, and their gender and racial/ethnic background.

In addition to a complete description of the incident, complainants can also provide names and contact information for witnesses, and any available audio, video, or photos of the incident.

How are complaints submitted?

Assuming the civilian complaint process goes live in January as scheduled, people will be able to file a complaint: 
  • Online
  • By mailing the form to the Community Oversight Board, 243 S. Allen St., State College, PA 16801
  • By faxing the form to 814-231-3082
  • By submitting the printed form in person to the borough’s equity and inclusion director at the State College Municipal Building (address above)
  • By emailing the form to ccp@statecollegepa.us
  • By calling 814-234-7100 (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays) or 814-234-7150 (after hours, weekends, and holidays; this is the police department’s non-emergency number) — and asking for the director of equity and inclusion.

What authority does the Community Oversight Board have to respond to complaints?

“We’re not going to be able to investigate,” Cynthia Young, the chair of the Community Oversight Board, told Spotlight PA. “And we’re not going to be able to make the State College PD do anything.”

According to the complaint process, the Community Oversight Board “will not make determinations of SCPD employee misconduct.”

Though the ordinance did empower the board to “investigate” complaints, the term was not defined and the board has chosen not to interpret it on its own.

The complaint process is “an alternate pathway to file a complaint or to voice concern” about police department employees, according to the board. Furthermore, “the priority of the CCP is to provide support to the complainant.”

All complaints submitted to the board are confidential regardless of whether someone provides their name

Reports involving “child abuse, physical harm or the threat of physical harm” must be forwarded to the State College Police Department. Otherwise, people submitting complaints to the board can choose whether they go through the police department’s complaint process as well, with the support of the board.

In addition to supporting complainants in the review process, Young said the board will also be able to track the kind of complaints that are made and make recommendations for improvement to the police department and borough council.

“The only thing we really have is the bully pulpit,” she said. “... but I don’t think that’s insignificant.”

Sarah Rafacz, State College editor

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» WHAT’S NEXT?: To help make sense of the election and what’s to come, join us Thursday, Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. EST on Zoom for a free panel about who won, what they promised on the campaign trail, and how those plans might get implemented once they are in office. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
📷 Local Gem
Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County — via @helenakotala. In 2003, the Kinzua Bridge, once the world's highest railroad viaduct, was "partially destroyed by a tornado," according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. It has since been reinvented as a pedestrian walk way.

Want to be featured here? Send your best local pics to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org.
A portion of the Kinzua Bridge in McKean County, Pennsylvania that was destroyed by a tornado but reinvented as a pedestrian walkway.
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» A federal investigation put construction of a rural Pennsylvania Victorian mansion on pause for 20 years. Now it's on the market. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

» 'Happy Valley is not the place for a casino' | Movement of State College community members oppose Lubert's proposed Nittany Mall Casino (The Daily Collegian)
📅 Events
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» Nov. 17: The holiday season kicks into high gear with Light Up Night in downtown State College.

» Nov. 18-20: The Mid-State Literacy Council's fundraising bookfair takes place at Barnes & Noble in State College.

» Nov. 19: Sip and shop for the holidays in Lewistown.

» Nov. 19: South Hills School of Business & Technology hosts its Winter Reflections Craft Show.

» Nov. 20: Vendors, food and drink, and entertainment highlight the German Christkindl Market in Altoona.
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Do you have events, community shoutouts, questions about our region, or tips on stories that we should pursue? Email our team.
 
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