Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.
A Civilian Review Board is an unelected agenda driven body designed to usurp responsibility for police control from elected officials. No police department will be free from political influence beyond lawful oversight. It’s just a matter of degree, and there’s only one thing you can do to address civilian review boards. Stay away from a police department that has fallen under control of a civilian review board.
Politics and Power
Every police department has some form of civilian review, but the review is informal. Any community organization can review police conduct, and it can make recommendations to elected and appointed officials.
A Civilian Review Board is different, because the goal is to have its authority and power codified into law. A standard community based organization represents the community at large, but a civilian review board is the definition of special interests.
You won’t see a CRB where crime is low, and law abiding citizens vastly outnumber criminals. Interaction between police and criminals increases in larger populations, and scrutiny of police conduct increases proportionally. Crime rates also increase, and the public develops a higher level of tolerance for crime and criminals. Criminals don’t exist in a vacuum, and they have immediate and extended families and friends.
Politicians recognize that families and friends of criminals represent a voting constituency, and constituencies are the basis of politics and power.
Civilian Review Board - Another Layer of Bureaucracy
Police departments are under civilian control, and none operate outside the control of elected officials. Every police chief is appointed by an elected politician, and sheriffs are themselves elected officials.
The appointments are scrutinized by state legislatures, city, county or town councils, and they are confirmed by those bodies. There’s no need for another layer of bureaucracy, but the ACLU would disagree. A civilian review board consisting of 7 to 9 political appointees is recommended by the ACLU, and the ACLU goes further. Under the ACLU’s Effective Model, a civilian review board should have total or near total control over every function of a police department.
The ACLU suggests that, “The seven to nine CRB members are representatives of community organizations i.e. ACLU, NAACP, etc.” I’d be curious to know those organizations described by etc., but you get the drift. The ACLU cannot be accused of being inclusive, because “Having current or former police officers on the CRB can be controversial.”
Civilian review boards pursue agendas for radical change, but the radicalization of mayors, city councils and governors may make CRB’s irrelevant. The Defund the Police movement during the Covid 19 Pandemic is an example of bad ideas during bad times.
Change is inevitable – Good or Bad - Civilian Review Board
Radical groups seek to turn law and order into law and disorder, because social disorder is a driving force for change. Success is achieved when the disorder produces a new definition of order, and the new order is always tyrannical versus Constitutional.
Change is inevitable in everything, and police work is no exception. Your evaluation must identify the direction of change for the police department you’re considering. Change is cyclical, and bad change will necessitate good change. You may join a police department in the bad change phase, but you won’t have to endure the consequences indefinitely.
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