Civilian Review Boards

 Civilian Review Boards

The recent police shooting of Jacob Blake and the police killing of Breonna Taylor demonstrate that people are at significant risk of harm, and even death, when excessive force practices are perpetrated with impunity. In both incidents, the officers involved were absolved of criminal charges, which is consistent with a national pattern indicating that police officers rarely face criminal charges for excessive use of force, and if they do, they are unlikely to be convicted.1 The scores of abusive police behaviors that have caught national attention, both before and after George Floyd’s murder in 2020, also reveal a failure of police internal review proceedings to provide oversight and sufficient police accountability. This underscores the dire need for an independent citizen review board with authority to investigate complaints of police brutality, discrimination, and other misconduct.

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 Civilian Review Boards
 Civilian Review Boards

Key Observations

  • Citizen review boards offer transparency and accountability currently lacking in many police agencies and can improve trust between law enforcement and communities. 
  • There are approximately 150 civilian review boards affiliated with large police departments in the U.S.
  • 40% of civilian oversight boards have the authority to subpoena witnesses, and about 50% have the authority to subpoena records.
  • Remediation of the “reasonable doubt” standard is essential to achieve actionable oversight powers grounded in all areas of police oversight.
 Civilian Review Boards

Recommendations:

  • Establish civilian review boards in jurisdictions that currently do not have any. 
  • Review and revise “reasonable doubt” and/or “preponderance of evidence” standards of proof for establishing police misconduct. 
  • Grant civilian oversight boards subpoena authority to review all video/audio and documents and compel witness testimony. 
  • Provide training to civilian oversight boards on lawful interpretations of agency-specific standards of proof, police officer profiles, and other required information needed to make informed decisions.
 Civilian Review Boards
 Civilian Review Boards

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