Civilian Review Boards

Civilian Review Boards

A municipal body composed of citizen representatives charged with the investigation of complaints by members of the public concerning misconduct by police officers. Such bodies may be independent agencies or part of a law enforcement agency.

Generally, the power of a civilian review board is restricted to reviewing an already completed internal police investigation, and commenting on it to the Chief of Police. Citizen review boards have not been very effective at causing reform, as they are often co-opted by the police department whose investigations they are supposed to review, and thus wind up agreeing with the police department in almost all instances.

Some of the newer civilian review board models, however, provide board members with investigatory as well as review authority. Some of these models contemplate that the board will conduct parallel investigations to supplement the internal affairs investigations. In a few localities, the review board has subpoena power and can force a police officer to testify. A few jurisdictions even grant sole investigatory power to their civilian review boards. But it is very rare for a civilian review board to have the final say as to the disposition of an investigation or discipline to be imposed on an officer. These ultimate decisions generally continue to be the province of the chief of police. Nonetheless, all civilian review boards with independent investigatory authority seem to have the power to make recommendations to the chief on disposition and discipline.

Further readings

Goldsmith, Andrew J., and Colleen Lewis. 2000. Civilian Oversight of Policing: Governance, Democracy, and Human Rights. Portland, Ore.: Hart Pub.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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In numerous cities across the country, civilian review boards of police practices have grown increasingly popular.
On the issue of policing, mayors overwhelmingly supported efforts such as body cameras, civilian review boards, and data-driven evaluation.
In that 1994 report, The Research Bureau said the evidence at that time suggested that civilian review boards do not sustain complaints at a higher level than review mechanisms internal to the police department.
The same can be said for Civilian Review Boards (CRBs).
Some cities and counties use an ombudsman, commonly referred to as an auditor; others have commissions, also called civilian review boards. Some cities use a combination of both.
The subversives sought to establish "civilian review boards" dominated by their own activists, appointed by left-wing politicians, to handcuff, subvert, and then take over, law enforcement.
Prior to September 11, struggles against police brutality had been most effective on the local level in raising public consciousness of institutionalized racism and engendering small reforms, such as civilian review boards. This is because local police departments are controlled by local governments, not by states or the national government.
In California, Democratic Governor Edmund Brown, buffeted by the legacy of Watts and locked in a heated race with former actor Ronald Reagan, said that he opposed civilian review boards. (45) In Washington, the Johnson administration offered Leary and the NYPD financial assistance through the new Law Enforcement Administration Agency.
In its report, The Research Bureau said the evidence at that time suggested that civilian review boards do not sustain complaints at a higher level than review mechanisms internal to the police department.
Civilian review boards can pose problems, but the city can design its new internal review process to address them.
As a result, politicians and community groups push for the use of civilian oversight committees and civilian review boards to handle citizen complaints.
Citizens often propose civilian review boards following incidents that involve the use of excessive force.
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