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City of Oxford forms Commission on Police Transparency

The Oxford Board of Aldermen approved appointments last month for a commission geared toward transparency in the police department.

There were 10 members appointed during the Board’s June 29 budget meeting, who will comprise the city’s first Commission on Police Transparency.

The idea of forming a commission came after two Zoom meetings between city officials, members of the community and officers with the Oxford Police Department earlier this summer. The events were hosted by Conversations for Change, which is a local community group that recently formed to promote community conversations about police brutality and racial injustice.

Due to the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd while in police custody in May, which led to protests and calls for police reform and budget cuts, the organization brought up the idea of Oxford forming a commission.

“I think it’s just an opportunity to gather more knowledge,” said Oxford police chief Jeff McCutchen. “Conversation is important, but equally for us to be able to share our message of what are doing in the community and what is happening in our community from a policing standpoint. The greatest thing that we gather out of these is, you have people embedded in communities that can come back and give us direct feedback that sometimes we don’t always get or can be delayed. So, this gives a chance to get ahead of those concerns, but equally, there’s probably concerns that people have where they don’t know our policies and procedures. So we hope through this, we share what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and it can put a lot of minds at ease on the type of policing and level that we got. That’s the goal.”

Each alderman nominated one member of the community to sit on the commission and Mayor Robyn Tannehill nominated two people. The 10th member will be someone to represent Oxford’s student population, whom Tannehill felt needed to be represented on the commission.

The nine members appointed are:

  • Margaret Gibson, retired teacher (Recommended by Alderman Preston Taylor)
  • Barbara Phillips, retired attorney (Recommended by Alderman Janice Antonow)
  • James Harper, attorney (Recommended by Alderman Jason Bailey)
  • Josh McGlawn, business owner (Recommended by Alderman Kesha Howell Atkins)
  • Javi Sanchez, associate pastor at Community Church (Recommended by Alderman Rick Addy)
  • Eddie Rester, pastor of Oxford-University United Methodist Church (Recommended by Alderman Mark Huelse)
  • John Abernathy, business owner (Recommended by Alderman John Morgan)
  • Cliff Johnson, director of the MacArthur Justice Clinic (Recommended by Mayor Robyn Tannehill)
  • Cindy Meek Brown, business owner (Recommended by Mayor Robyn Tannehill)

“I believe that our Oxford Police Department serves with professionalism, respect and transparency every day,” Tannehill said. “I do believe we can always do things better and can always tell our story better. A commission is a great start for us to hear from different people in our community… and to make everyone has a voice as far as asking questions and giving input.”

The commission’s first meeting is scheduled to take place either later this month or early August. A date and time have not been announced, but the meetings will be open to the public.