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The Civilian "Review" Board

I have no problem with a quasi-
governmental civilian review board to
monitor police conduct.  I have no
problem with a process that allows
recommendations for further review or
change.  However, that process, itself,
must be closely monitored by the elected
politicians who create the process, and
those same elected politicians must be
held responsible for the actions of their
creation.  When you see a Civilian Review
Board with the authority to
independently impose its will, you'll also
see a bunch of elected politicians running
from the heat of controversial issues.

No police department, no matter how
efficiently and professionally it's
operated, will be totally free from the
ravages of political influence...it's just a
matter of degree.  There's nothing you
can do about it except to stay far, far
away from those police departments that
have fallen under the total, or near total,
control of a Civilian Review Board.
No matter what police department you
join, there will be some form of a civilian
review board, or people will be talking
about forming one.  The political pressure
for the formation of civilian review boards
occur in direct proportion to the size of a
police department and the level of crime.

...it's all about politics and power

If you join a small police department in a
jurisdiction where crime is under control
and the law abiding population vastly
outnumbers those engaging in criminal
conduct, civilian oversight will be informal
and effective.  In other words, when a
police officer commits an egregious act,
the conduct will be obvious and unlikely
to fall through the cracks.

When we move to larger centers of
population where crime and criminals
exist in large numbers, the interaction
between police and criminals increases
dramatically.  There are two factors that
have a great deal to do with how the
public views that interaction.  First...
where ever the rate of crime is high, the
public develops a higher level of tolerance
for crime and criminals.  Secondly,
criminals don't exist in a vacuum.  Like
anyone, they have immediate and
extended families, and they have friends.  
Politicians are the first to recognize that
the families and friends of criminals
--when they exist in significant numbers
-- represent a voting constituency...it's
all about politics and power.
"Every single police department in
the United States is, from its creation,
under civilian control and review.  
Notice that I put control ahead of
review." ~ Barry M. Baker
...an additional layer of bureaucracy

Think about this.  Every single police
department in the United States is, from
its creation, under civilian control and
review.  Notice that I put
control ahead
of
review.  Every TOP COP, referred to as
Police Chief, Police Commissioner, or
Superintendent is a political appointee
appointed by an
elected politician
(governor, mayor or city manager), and
the appointment is usually confirmed by a
group of
elected politicians serving in a
state legislature, or in city, county, or
town councils.

Since every police department is already
under civilian control, where is the need
for an additional layer of bureaucracy
consisting of 7 to 9 additional political
appointees as recommended by the
ACLU?  Under the ACLU's Effective Model,
a civilian review board should have total
or near total control over every function
of a police department.

It's probably just me, but I have to ask
the question..."Why would elected
officials cede their responsibilities of
control, oversight, and review to a group
of unelected people who will, without
doubt, use their positions to promote
their own political and social agendas?  
Fortunately, most governments do not
cede that ever sought after total control
by organizations like the ACLU.  The
ACLU suggests that, "The seven to nine
CRB members are representatives of
community organizations (ie - ACLU,
NAACP, etc.) ..."  I'd be curious to know
those organizations described by etc.,
but I get the drift.  In fairness, the ACLU
does imply their desire to avoid
controversy with this statement, "Having
current or former police officers on the
CRB can be controversial."  Well...so
much for fairness.

Now...I'm a reasonable person, and I
have quite a bit of experience when it
comes to the politics of disciplinary
matters within a police department.  I'd
be the first to agree, even with the ACLU,
that many police departments,
particularly the larger ones, do a pretty
lousy job in conducting internal
investigations.  It's pretty lousy when an
internal investigation concludes with more
questions than answers, or an
investigation just languishes; until, time
limits make it irrelevant, or interest in the
investigation just fades away.

Excluding investigations of criminal
conduct, internal investigations should be
the easiest investigations for police
investigators to conduct.  First, only a
preponderance of evidence is necessary
to sustain a complaint of misconduct
against a police officer.  Secondly, a
police department's rules and regulations
are usually comprehensive, and if
something is missed, there's always a
"catch all" charge to nail you.

You're entering a career where you'll be
continuously subjected to the possibility
of disciplinary action.  I can't think of any
other profession or occupation that
presents so much risk involving so many
varied situations and circumstances.  
While some police departments take the
subject of discipline very seriously,
others don't...at least when it comes to
certain people.  That's why it's very
important for you to give the police
department you intend to join the same
level of scrutiny that it's going to put on
hiring you.
...the TOP COP

It's all about the police chief,
commissioner, superentenant...the TOP
COP.  I'll use mayor and police chief to
make this point.  If a mayor appoints a
police chief who is a strong and
experienced administrator, there won't
be a lot of disciplinary problems within
that police department.

Guess what?  A police chief doesn't even
have to be a police officer.  It's okay if
the chief is, or has been, a police officer
as long as the chief possesses those all
important administrative skills.  You may
ask, "If the police chief doesn't have a
police background, how can the chief
understand the job?  Remember...the
police chief is a political appointee whose
only job is to command a thoroughly
efficient and professional organization.  
When it comes to understanding the
police work aspect of the organization,
the chief's command staff can fulfill that
need.

The administratively strong chief will
choose a command staff whose members
are also administratively strong, and
they'll be (hopefully) experienced police
officers as well.  I put "hopefully" in there,
because high ranking positions within
police departments are frequently
susceptible to political considerations if
not outright political pressure.  However,
if the mayor is willing to use his or her
political muscle to shield the chief from
political interference, this chief will be well
on his or her way to establishing, and
maintaining, a thoroughly efficient and
professional organization.
Civilian
Review Board  
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