Mayor Vera Katz took a moment from last week's city council meeting to praise a voluminous report from the Citizen Review Committee. Formed a little more than a year ago, the committee was put in place to provide more bite to the city's police watchdog group. But in doling out compliments for the annual report, Mayor Katz conveniently glossed over serious rifts between the civilian committee and the bureaucracy that oversees it.

Almost two years ago, under criticism for being completely toothless, the former citizen-staffed police watchdog group was dismantled. With promises for better scrutiny of police reports and assurances of more autonomy, the committee was put in its place last February.

Although the committee has yet to successfully challenge the police department, in two high-profile cases they have stood their ground against Internal Affairs and police leadership, who seem determined to sweep any civilian complaint under the rug. It is, say observers, a good beginning.

In one case that has been churning through the review process, Merrick Bonneau was mistakenly arrested three years ago. At the time, Bonneau was mistaken for his half-brother, who was wanted for domestic violence charges and is white (Bonneau is black). During the arrest, Bonneau tried to explain the police's blatant error of identity, but police arrested him anyway.

At the latest hearing for his case, in mid-April, Bonneau accused Asst. Chief Derrick Foxworth of lying about the details surrounding his arrest. Ultimately, the citizen committee agreed with Bonneau and rejected Foxworth's claims.

In a second case, the committee has tried to reopen a review about Mejia Poot, a Mexican immigrant who was shot two years ago by police while in custody. Both police officials and the city attorney have told the committee that they no longer have jurisdiction in the case because a deadline for initiating further review has already passed. The committee has declared that they will continue their investigation.