Police oversight boards, also known as civilian oversight boards, have been implemented to improve community trust in police. But law enforcement officers and union officials are appropriately skeptical of untrained, under-resourced oversight boards.
Oversight boards date back to the early 1900s. They were initially created to try to eliminate undue political pressure on police, but it failed.
In the 1960s, inspired by challenges of the Civil Rights Era, oversight boards had more longevity. Since then, there has been an expansion of oversight boards from less than 40 in the 1980s to over 100 oversight boards across the US by 2000.
OVERSIGHT BOARDS SUPERVISING POLICE DEPARTMENTS
WHO SERVES ON OVERSIGHT BOARDS?
What makes someone qualified to serve on an oversight board?
Qualifications vary by city
Some have past law enforcement or criminal justice experience
Others have some connection to law enforcement but no direct experience.
Many have no previous connection to law enforcement
ARE OVERSIGHT BOARDS FAIR AND FREE OF BIAS?
- Many jurisdictions allow the mayor or other elected officials to select board members. This means that board members likely lack the independence needed to arbitrate discipline in an impartial manner.
- Because Los Angeles’s police oversight board is comprised of attorneys and mediators, officers with higher ranks get more favorable disciplinary decisions over lower-ranking officers.
- New York City’s police oversight board has long been criticized for inconsistent discipline. Department commanders rejected 90 percent of the board’s disciplinary findings in 2012.
COMMON OVERSIGHT BOARDS SHORTFALLS
CITIES WITH POLICE OVERSIGHT BOARDS
Police oversight has a necessary role in public service. However, as an organization we have
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