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Chico’s Police Community Advisory Board to hold first town hall this spring

City of Chico Police Department on Feb. 20, 2024
Erik Adams
City of Chico Police Department on Feb. 20, 2024

The Chico Police Department’s Police Community Advisory Board (PCAB) is planning its promised biannual town hall meeting as early as April. This will be the first public meeting since its new members joined in 2021. Members have been meeting in private since the end of last year.

The board is made up of 10 members who were announced in January. All work with different communities in the city and applied to be volunteers. Board members serve a term of one year.

“I think previous PCABs were hand-selected by the chief,” said Police Chief Billy Aldridge.“ So I broke that policy apart and said, ‘you know what, this isn't working.’”

The chief said he wanted a more diverse group of people to serve on the board than before.

A total of 22 applications for board positions were submitted to the department. Applications were open to the public for a total of two months. Aldridge said he was surprised more residents had not applied.

“Having to extend it out to two months and only getting 22 applications out of a population of over 100,000 people?” Aldridge said, “You know, I felt like, ‘wow.’ I mean, I thought for sure I would get quite a bit of applications. And so, to me, that kind of spoke volumes.”

The current PCAB policy says members' duties include reviewing “significant community issues” and making “recommendations regarding potential resolutions to the chief of police.”

Board members may also help with community outreach and assist with budget duties “through review, program evaluation and priority recommendation.”

Martin Nichols is one member of the board. He represents the senior citizen community. Nichols worked more than 40 years in government, and said he applied to the board to stay engaged with his community.

“Like the bus driver that likes to go for a ride on the weekend, I like to stay involved in my profession in the community,” Nichols said.

Nichols named issues like senior abuse as one concern of his constituents.

“There's also concern in the senior community that the police department may not fully understand the difference between a senior with dementia and a senior with substance abuse or mental health issues,” Nichols said. “And that leads to some problems in terms of trying to interact with the community.”

ChicoSol reporter Dave Waddell has spent many years reporting on police-related issues in the city. He said he’s impressed with the members selected to the new board and recognized a change from the composition of previous boards.

But “whether it leads to real change at Chico PD remains to be seen,” Waddell said.

He said he’s also concerned about some of the meetings among board members and the police department being private.

“That troubles me a little bit,” Waddell said, “that this public agency is meeting behind closed doors, talking about whatever they're talking about. And then, the news media or interested person from the public eye doesn't have access to that. I don't quite understand that.”

Under the Brown Act, all information discussed in public meetings must be open to the public.

In an email, Adridge wrote the meetings “are for the board to discuss issues that may be confidential in nature.” He further wrote, “We do not keep board minutes either, as PCAB does not [f]all within the Brown Act requirements.”

The board is currently working on a survey to be released this month that is aimed at gauging the community’s relationship with the police department.

“We'll take that survey and break [it] apart and see: where are our consistent issues?” Aldridge said, “and start to address those and make the changes that we need to make.”

Aldridge said town hall information will be on the department website and circulated in the community with “plenty of notice to the public.”

Erik began his role as NSPR's Butte County government reporter in September of 2023 as part of UC Berkeley's California Local News Fellowship. He received his bachelor's degree in Journalism from Cal State LA earlier that year.
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