Revisiting Who Is Guarding the Guardians? 

Chapter 4

External Controls

Most police departments around the country have an internal affairs division that is responsible for investigating misconduct allegations and disciplining officers.[1] But internal review measures have not always proven effective. Critics disagree with the notion of the police “policing” themselves and find such a system to be inherently flawed and lacking in objectivity. Consequently, many citizens and civic organizations support aggressive external controls as the most effective means to combat police misconduct and brutality.

In Who Is Guarding the Guardians? the Commission documented several problems that existed nationwide with the external review of police misconduct.[2] Unfortunately, many of the same concerns expressed in Guardians remain unresolved. Some city government officials continue to negatively influence the relationship between the public and the police in their jurisdictions. Despite the Commission’s recommendations, most civilian review boards remain without disciplinary power or meaningful authority over internal investigations into police misconduct.

Although federal, state, and local officials have instituted some changes that have affected the way in which police misconduct cases are handled, most communities studied by the Commission since Guardians was issued in 1981 do not show any marked improvement in the oversight of local police departments. Many communities share two central issues related to the correction and elimination of police misconduct: ineffective monitoring by federal and state government officials and a lack of adequate independent civilian review.


City officials at various levels of government continue to exercise great influence over how external review procedures are conducted. As the Commission found in Guardians, “the chief executive officer (mayor or city manager) or his designee is not only granted the power to appoint and dismiss the chief of police at will but sets the tone for the conduct of the entire force.”[3] Some mayors, police chiefs, and police commissioners are more involved in law enforcement matters than others. Generally, larger municipalities with higher crime rates tend to have government officials who demonstrate greater concern and control over police department affairs. In these cities, the mayor, police chief, and police commissioner will often determine the extent to which the battle against police brutality will be waged. Hubert Williams, president of the Police Foundation, explained, “Most police chiefs are honest and have integrity, but they fail due to an ignorance of what is occurring in their own departments.”[4] According to the Human Rights Watch, “police brutality will only subside once higher-ranking police officials judge their subordinates—and are judged themselves—on their efforts to provide sufficient and consistent oversight.”[5] The following section examines a few of the external control measures city governments have adopted since the Commission published Guardians.

Reforms in City Government Oversight of Police Misconduct

In April 1991, Tom Bradley, the mayor of Los Angeles at the time, created the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department (the Christopher Commission) to temporarily oversee certain law enforcement issues in the city.[6] The Christopher Commission issued a report recommending significant changes in the Los Angeles Police Department, including a restructuring of the entire discipline system, the appointment of an inspector general within the Police Commission to oversee the disciplinary process, and the imposition of term limits for the police chief.[7] Shortly after the report was issued, Police Chief Daryl Gates retired and was replaced with Willie L. Williams.[8] During his five-year tenure, Chief Williams was credited with instituting many of the improvements outlined by the Christopher Commission.[9] He appointed Katherine Mader as inspector general to monitor the resolution of civilian complaints, and since 1991 the total number of “use of force” incidents decreased dramatically.[10] Chief Williams attributed the decline in these incidents, in part, to improved training and to some officers’ awareness that there is a “higher review” of their behavior, “not just within the organization, but outside through the public.”[11] He added, “There’s been an unequivocal message from me, as Chief of Police, that we will not tolerate any of these issues.”[12]

Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and Police Chief Bernard Parks have also expressed a commitment to ending police misconduct.[13] According to Mayor Riordan, his office, the City Council, the Police Commission, and the police chief “are committed to strong oversight systems and procedures for the Police Department.”[14] This renewed sense of commitment may have been inspired by a four-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the LAPD and its use of excessive force.[15] During its investigation, the Justice Department paid particular attention to the LAPD’s Rampart Division, which garnered national attention when reports emerged that officers within the division had shot, beaten, and falsely arrested innocent people, 100 of whom later had their convictions overturned.[16] At the time of this report, the Justice Department was negotiating a consent decree with Los Angeles that includes “strict guidelines for using confidential informants; an unprecedented degree of community outreach, open meetings and public information; a computerized system to track problem officers; holding the police chief more accountable for disciplinary decisions, and tightening control of anti-gang units.”[17] Therefore, as demonstrated in Los Angeles, the concerted efforts and cooperation of city government and police officials can dramatically change the manner and effectiveness of external controls on police misconduct.

Other municipalities around the nation have also been credited with changing the attitude of law enforcement regarding police misconduct issues. For example, in New Orleans, Mayor Marc Morial and Police Superintendent Richard Pennington have been recognized for their commitment to ending police abuses within the department.[18] During their tenure, an integrity division was established to uncover police corruption.[19] This initial effort demonstrates Mayor Morial’s interest in addressing police misconduct in New Orleans.

Similarly, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the police chief, John Farrell, promised to “root out corrupt and brutal officers with a series of initiatives designed to restore confidence in the troubled force, including the immediate installation of video cameras in patrol cars and the appointment of an FBI agent to oversee disciplinary affairs.”[20]

Some cities are testing the idea of using an independent auditor or inspector general to review police brutality cases and to recommend appropriate action directly to police department authorities. In July 2000, officials in Omaha, Nebraska, met with civic leaders and community members to discuss the possibility of appointing an auditor who would have the authority to ask that a deputy police chief or the police chief investigate a police misconduct complaint further.[21] Inspectors general or auditors are currently in use in Portland, Oregon; San Jose, California; Los Angeles County; and the city of Los Angeles.[22] The San Jose auditor, Teresa Guerrero-Daley, explained that at the time of her appointment in 1993, she was met with resistance from the former police chief and the police union, but since then she had received increasing support from the City Council and other city leaders.[23] And in the cities of Portland and Seattle, which have existing auditors, officials are considering the development of civilian review boards to supplement the auditor’s oversight of police misconduct.[24] The use of these independent authorities could provide an additional level of oversight that would increase public confidence in the integrity of police disciplinary systems.

Barriers to Effective City Government Control of Police Misconduct

In cities where officials are less involved in the external control of police misconduct the public is more likely to have a strained relationship with the police. According to the Human Rights Watch, in each of the 14 major cities that the organization examined, “police leadership on this issue is lacking. Most high-ranking police officials . . . seem uninterested in vigorously pursuing high standards for treatment of persons in custody.”[25] In Hampton, Virginia, and Wichita, Kansas, for instance, information about internal investigations of complaints and disciplinary actions against officers was not made available to the public.[26] The Commission has observed that this practice fosters distrust and animosity between police officers and the communities they serve. Similar sentiments were evident throughout communities in Chicago, South Dakota, Nevada, Wisconsin, New York, and California, where many citizens expressed the view that there is simply no effective disciplining of the police.[27] Thus, without meaningful oversight by city officials, the credibility and effectiveness of police departments around the country are being undermined by the officials’ failure to respond to disciplinary problems adequately.

Some city officials may altogether oppose using external controls to address police misconduct. In Bangor, Maine, for example, Representative Michael J. McAlevey (R-Waterboro), rejected the notion that civilians should be involved in the correction of police misconduct.[28] To illustrate his view that civilians are not qualified to conduct police investigations, Representative McAlevey stated, “I don’t want a plumber to take my teeth out.”[29] And in New York City, local officials have been widely criticized for resisting independent oversight of the police department’s misconduct issues.[30] Although crime rates declined 55 percent since Mayor Rudolph Giuliani first took office in New York in 1993, according to a poll commissioned by the City Council most city residents think that police brutality is a serious issue, that the department cannot effectively police itself, and that it needs an independent monitor.[31]

Moreover, the Commission to Combat Police Corruption, which was created by Mayor Giuliani in 1995, found extensive deficiencies in the internal disciplinary process of the police department.[32] But the Giuliani administration repeatedly rejected several proposed forms of external control (including federal and city-run monitors), insisting that the city would never agree to oversight of or any outside intrusion into the police department.[33] Such views have prompted strong opposition from Mayor Giuliani’s critics, who accuse him of being less than objective in police misconduct issues. Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist and president of the National Action Network, expressed reservations about the appointment of the new police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, who some think can effect positive change in the department’s administration. But Rev. Sharpton stated, “The fact that they have a new commissioner doesn’t mean anything. The police commissioner in New York is Rudy Giuliani. He just changed deputies.”[34]

According to Robert Louden, director of the Criminal Justice Center and Security Management Institute at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, any deterrent against police misconduct must focus on “the elected officials and the persons that those elected officials appoint to run their police departments.”[35] Thus, the predominant concern for achieving integrity in the oversight of police misconduct cases requires the involvement of city officials who can remain fair and impartial, and whose primary objective is to ensure justice prevails.

Increasing numbers of city officials have taken a firm stance against police brutality in their jurisdictions. Indeed, some of the most creative programs designed to combat this problem have come from the offices of mayors, police commissioners, and police chiefs. Too many, however, are unwilling to yield to public pressure for stiffer penalties against officers who violate the law. Unfortunately, significant changes in the external control of abusive officers are often not made until a tragedy occurs. It remains to be seen what effect, if any, some of the newer forms of external controls being developed by city governments will have in bringing an end to the problem of police misconduct.


State prosecution of police misconduct has been criticized as being infrequent and ineffective, in part, because local prosecutors are reluctant to prosecute the officers upon whom they must rely for the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases.[36] As the Commission found in Guardians, “[t]he criminal law is a limited vehicle for preventing or deterring police misconduct. Nonetheless, vigorous prosecution of such cases by local prosecutors is essential.”[37] In most police abuse cases, however, local prosecutors decline to bring criminal charges, often with the explanation that the officers’ use of force was “justified.”[38] Under these circumstances, many citizens have lost faith in the ability of their local governments to discipline the police, and instead have begun to seek aggressive federal intervention to curb police misconduct.

State Prosecutors

State prosecutors around the country have been criticized for taking a tough approach to the prosecution of civilian defendants but being more lenient and sympathetic when the accused is a police officer. Biases a prosecutor may hold in favor of a particular defendant will typically conflict with his or her ability to pursue a fair and just outcome. This is particularly true in the case of police brutality because the accused is often the same person that the county or district attorney relies upon for help in the investigation and prosecution of criminal defendants.

Four reasons that local prosecutors may choose not to pursue a case against a police officer accused of misconduct, even though the evidence may support such prosecution, include:

These obstacles can prevent state prosecutors from being as aggressive in their pursuit of abusive officers as they are with civilians who have been accused of committing a crime. Without an additional layer of analysis of the facts, most officers who face criminal allegations will avoid any type of meaningful prosecution.

Special Prosecutors

As Louis Schwartz, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, determined in his study on police violence, “the District Attorney’s office has not been, and, in the nature of things, could not be, an effective instrument for controlling police violence.”[40] Local prosecutors’ offices face “a hopeless conflict-of-interest” in handling police violence complaints because, in most cases, the district attorney’s office must investigate the defendant’s allegations of brutality against the police while simultaneously investigating the police charges against the defendant.[41] According to Peter Davis, professor of law at Touro College, the “symbiotic relationship” that the police share with local prosecutors “virtually guarantees that no local district attorney—in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or elsewhere—will pursue police brutality prosecutions vigorously.”[42]

The appointment of a special prosecutor to pursue criminal charges against officers on the state level may help to eliminate the “conflict of interest”[43] that plagues local prosecution of police misconduct cases. In its reports on police practices in Los Angeles and New York, the Commission recommended that a special prosecutor be assigned to investigate high-profile police brutality cases.[44] In Los Angeles, for instance, the Commission found that “[t]he district attorney’s reliance on police cooperation for prosecuting crimes conflicts with its duty to prosecute police misconduct.”[45] More than a year after the Commission’s report was issued, a report initiated by the police union in Los Angeles reiterated the need for a permanent special prosecutor to investigate misconduct.[46] In January 1993, California State Senator Art Torres introduced a bill creating a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute misconduct complaints against peace officers.[47] The bill, which was ultimately defeated, was intended to negotiate the legitimate interest of the district attorney’s office in cultivating police cooperation with the public’s interest in vigorous prosecution of police misconduct.[48] In June 1996, a group of 25 relatives of people killed by law enforcement officers held a demonstration in front of the district attorney’s office and then made their way to the Board of Supervisors meeting to lobby for an independent prosecutor.[49] Later, at a hearing before the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C., Michael Zinzun, executive director of the Coalition Against Police Abuse, also called for the creation of independent prosecutors to investigate and prosecute police misconduct under a national review board.[50] Similarly, Erwin Chemerinsky, professor at the University of Southern California, strongly recommended the creation of a permanent special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing by Los Angeles police officers.[51]

Testimony at the Commission’s hearing on police practices in New York indicated that “the independence of a special prosecutor is necessary to ensure that where credible evidence exists to support a charge against an officer, that charge is pursued in as vigorous a fashion as possible.”[52] The results from the poll conducted by New York’s City Council further demonstrate that most city residents desire more objectivity in police misconduct cases.[53]

In rural municipalities, where the local prosecutor and police department may share a particularly close relationship due to the relatively small size of their jurisdictions, there may be an even greater need for independent review by an objective, unbiased prosecutor. A state law in Nebraska, for example, requires that a grand jury meet and a special prosecutor be appointed each time someone dies in police custody.[54] In Louisville, Kentucky, and Beckley, West Virginia, local prosecutors requested that special prosecutors be appointed to investigate police brutality allegations due to conflicts of interest in those cases.[55] Removing the prosecution of police abuse cases from the confines of local county or district attorneys’ offices could increase the number of investigations and convictions in misconduct cases, and concomitantly, increase public confidence in the disciplinary process.

The appointment of a special prosecutor, however, does not guarantee that police officers accused of wrongdoing will be prosecuted and ultimately punished. In many cases, the special prosecutor is another county or district attorney selected from a neighboring jurisdiction that may be subject to the same biases and partiality as the original prosecutor. In Denver, for example, public uproar over a police officer pistol-whipping a suspect during his arrest caused Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter to request a special prosecutor to look into charges of police brutality.[56] The special prosecutor, Arapahoe County District Attorney Jim Peters, ruled that no excessive force was used and that police followed accepted methods of subduing culprits.[57] A week later, however, Denver Mayor Wellington Webb said he was not satisfied with the special prosecutor’s findings and ordered further review of the case.[58] Thus, the conflict of interest that can arise due to the close relationship that prosecutors generally share with police officers is not necessarily alleviated by the substitution of another prosecutor. It can be argued that the most effective special prosecutor in police abuse cases would come from outside the ranks of the law enforcement community.

Federal Government Oversight

Federal oversight of state prosecutions in police brutality cases may afford an even greater level of accountability. As discussed in Guardians, effective prosecution of police misconduct cases should involve the collective efforts of local officials and the federal government, through the U.S. Department of Justice, which is responsible for enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws.[59] A 1993 Commission report on police practices in the Mount Pleasant area of Washington, D.C., emphasized the need for federal intervention, stating, “The Federal Government can contribute significantly to remedying the problems of police abuse by the identification and prosecution of abuse cases.”[60] But in South Dakota, for instance, one resident explained, “[We] are regulated by city, county, tribes, State, Federal, BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs]. All these agencies, but no one can protect us, but yet they regulate us and they prosecute us when there is a crime against a non-Indian.”[61] Several community leaders and residents of Los Angeles also maintained that the federal government’s posture had been one of “inaction and neglect.”[62] These sentiments reflect a widespread frustration with the failure of government entities to remedy police misconduct.

Nevertheless, federal prosecutors or other independent federal agency representatives may be able to monitor police abuse cases in a manner that local prosecutors cannot, and without the accompanying conflicts of interest that inhibit local prosecutions. Federal monitors have been called to oversee increasing numbers of police departments across the nation, particularly in cities where there have been one or more high-profile brutality cases. For example, New York City has had an ongoing battle between the city’s administration and federal prosecutors, who plan to file a lawsuit seeking an independent monitor of the police department.[63] Following an extensive probe that was sparked in 1997 by the Abner Louima sodomy-torture incident,[64] the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn concluded that there was a pattern of brutality in the New York City Police Department and that only the full force of the federal government could bring about systemic changes in the police culture.[65] The federal government proposed a consent decree that would be enforced by a federal judge. Under such an agreement, the federal government would monitor how the NYPD investigates complaints of police brutality, and the city would face costly lawsuits if it failed to comply with the terms of the consent decree.[66] Despite negotiations with the Justice Department, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani reportedly refused to sign the consent decree and prefers a “less-formal” agreement.[67] Federal prosecutors are considering a lawsuit against the city, since it appears there is little chance of reaching a settlement.[68]

The Justice Department also concluded a four-year investigation into allegations that the Los Angeles Police Department has routinely employed excessive force and violated the rights of minorities.[69] At the time of this report, federal officials were negotiating with the Los Angeles city government in the hopes of reaching an agreement on the 80-plus recommendations proposed by the Justice Department to reform the police department.[70] In addition, the Justice Department has investigated police misconduct issues in other municipalities around the nation, including New Jersey; Steubenville and Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Montgomery County, Maryland; Orange County, Florida; and Eastpoint, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.[71]

According to John Ginger, a federal monitor assigned to Pittsburgh, the federal government does not purport to substitute the judgment of its monitors for that of local police administrators, but rather “the government is simply asking for ‘good management.’ ”[72] But many officers have expressed strong opposition to federal intervention of any kind. Michele Papakie, a police spokeswoman in Pittsburgh, explained that some officers had not accepted changes required under the consent decree the city signed in 1998.[73] She also said the federal monitor’s presence makes officers uncomfortable.[74] This “uncomfortable” relationship between federal officials and local law enforcement, however, may produce the necessary changes that will eliminate, or at the very least, decrease the frequency of police misconduct and brutality cases. Regardless of one’s view on the issue of federal oversight of police misconduct cases, the reforms that have resulted from investigations and other actions pursued by the Justice Department have had a considerable impact on police practices around the country.


As a result of the perception that city, state, and federal agencies have failed to address police misconduct adequately, many communities are turning to independent civilian review boards to investigate allegations of police abuse. The civilian (or citizen) complaint process is a method of reviewing, processing, and investigating citizens’ complaints of alleged police misconduct. Most major cities have some measure of civilian oversight in place, but in many areas no such external civilian control exists. It is apparent, however, that civilian review boards are critical to the success of external controls over police misconduct. Civilian review boards provide a means of maintaining internal regulation of police practices and evaluating a police officer’s performance.[75] Regardless of whether a civilian’s complaint is valid, a system of review for allegations of misconduct can affect the public’s perception of a police department’s efficiency and its reputation.[76]

Previous Reform Efforts

Various factors caused an increased level of review of police departments’ activities throughout the nation. In the 1960s, the outcry for civilian oversight of police departments was often amplified as the result of increased tensions between minority communities and the police, civil unrest, alleged and actual incidents of police misconduct, and political intervention.[77] For example, after the civil unrest of August 1965 in the Watts and South Central Los Angeles communities of California, the McCone Commission issued several findings and recommendations relating to the causes of the riot to then-California Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown. The McCone Commission determined that “the civilian oversight body of the LAPD existed as a mere figurehead, controlled by [LAPD] Chief Parker . . . [and] that the citizens’ complaint procedure did not satisfy public needs. . . .”[78]

A year after the Watts riots in California, New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay appointed a seven-member Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) in July of 1966. Three of the civilian review board members were high-ranking police officers.[79] However, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which is the rank-and-file police union, maintained that the members of the review board were too liberal and would consequently not be supportive of police officers’ experiences and perspectives.[80] The association and other authorities then launched an advertising campaign that urged New Yorkers to vote to abolish the civilian review board on an upcoming referendum.[81] As a result, civilian review boards were rejected in the boroughs of Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn. Manhattan voters, who were primarily liberal whites and minorities, sustained the establishment of a civilian review board for their borough.[82]

Alderman Carl O. Snowden recalled growing local support in the late 1970s for a civilian review board in Annapolis, Maryland, when two black men were fatally shot and community residents voiced their objections.[83] Although the review board was not established, primarily due to resistance from law enforcement authorities—the Annapolis City Council created the Annapolis Human Relations Commission. The commission was empowered to investigate allegations of discrimination from city employees and entities, but not complaints of police misconduct.[84]

Some local government entities eventually began to be more supportive of the public’s demand for civilian oversight of police departments in subsequent decades. In St. Paul, Minnesota, although approximately six city task forces supported civilian review of the police since the 1960s, the mayoral administrations and police chiefs did not support the concept.[85] In 1993, the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission was finally approved by St. Paul’s City Council and the Police Federation.[86]

Similarly, in Louisville, Kentucky, coalitions of community residents have advocated for the creation of a civilian review board since the late 1960s and early 1970s. Because of lack of support from the entire membership of the Louisville Board of Aldermen, these efforts were not successful.[87] Recently, there have been renewed grassroots efforts to establish a civilian review board in Louisville:

Now, for the first time in 30 years . . . there is a real possibility that civilian oversight can become a reality. The change has come because lots of citizens have worked hard—talking to aldermen and organizations. . . . [B]ecause we now have four very strong African American aldermen who are determined on this issue—and, unlike the situation in the early ‘70s, they have two staunch white allies on the Board of Aldermen. Right now, we need an aroused citizenry to convince Mayor Armstrong not to veto the legislation and thus go against the 73 percent of public opinion (according to The Courier-Journal Bluegrass State Poll) that favors independent investigation. . . .[88]

In the 1980s, New York City Mayor Ed Koch created a civilian review board that included the same number of police and civilian members. The New York City Police Department did not oppose the establishment of a civilian review board until 1992, when Mayor Koch’s successor was in office.[89] During this time, Mayor David Dinkins transformed New York City’s civilian review board into an independent entity, separate from the police department. In response to this proposal, New York’s police officers staged a demonstration to show their lack of support for the mayor’s initiative.[90] The board was composed entirely of civilian mayoral staff. The CCRB is now composed of 13 mayoral-appointed members.[91] 

Current Approaches and Policies

In communities across the country, the public has complained about a lack of credibility among internal investigations of police misconduct and the need for external oversight by local citizens.[92] Police abuse expert Lynne Wilson stated, “Police misconduct is a matter of strong public interest . . . citizens, not police department officials, are the ultimate arbiters of what police behavior is acceptable in a democratic society.”[93] Professor David Harris of the University of Toledo Law School echoed this sentiment, stating,  

whether we’re talking about police agencies or government institutions of another kind, accountability is a uniquely American idea . . . The Declaration of Independence should be seen as a proclamation that the principle of accountability will stand in this country and nobody will stand for government without it. And the Constitution enshrined the idea of accountability as a cornerstone of our government . . . [it is] everything to every democratic country.[94]

There are numerous forms of civilian oversight. One of the most common classifications is defined by a four-tiered system:[95]

Other definitions of civilian oversight exist. In the “Civilian Review” (or Berkeley, California) model, an entity that is independent from the police department investigates and reviews civilian complaints and then recommends appropriate disciplinary action to the chief of police.[100] The “Civilian Input” approach authorizes civilian staff of the police department to investigate excessive force complaints, while the chief of police is responsible for issuing disciplinary action.[101] Lastly, the “Civilian Monitor” system grants a separate agency the duty to mediate and examine civilian complaints from those individuals who were not satisfied with the police department’s investigation and disposition of misconduct allegations.[102]

Several participants of the Commission’s briefing on national police practices commented on the effectiveness of civilian complaint review boards and new efforts being made toward their improvement. For example, James Fyfe, a professor of criminal justice at Temple University, explained that in 1981, there were no successful civilian complaint review boards.[103] By the early 1990s, however, more than 30 of the 50 largest police departments had established some form of civilian review.[104] Robert Louden described the importance of establishing a continuing dialogue between police departments and their communities in order to improve relationships and prevent crime.[105] He applauded experimental programs that tried innovative approaches, such as the regional policing institutes, which are funded by the COPS program of the Justice Department.[106] This program creates a partnership between the local police department, a college or university, and a citizens’ group. The project seeks to create a dialogue among the participants in hopes of resolving policing issues and working together for solutions.[107]

Dr. Louden also encouraged continued funding of community policing programs.[108] In New York, he helped create the Streetwise program, which addresses “cultural issues, language issues and people issues.”[109] The curriculum, designed by teams of police trainers, academics, foreign language professors, anthropologists, and others, eliminates the use of stereotypes in police training and incorporates more realistic portraits of community members.[110] In addition, Dr. Louden mentioned that several international law enforcement academies had been or would be opened in four countries: Hungary, Panama, Thailand, and South Africa.[111]

Finally, Hubert Williams informed the Commission that there is a need for accountability of the police, who are charged with fairly upholding laws.[112] He discussed the role of the police in America’s “war on drugs,” which has disproportionately affected minorities in urban areas.[113] As a result, relationships between people of color and the police have eroded, and minorities have lost faith in the criminal justice system. But police officers still see the benefit of strong relationships with neighborhood residents: “a recent Police Foundation survey found that over 95 percent of the rank-and-file police officers believe that the most effective way to control crime is by working with citizens and communities.”[114] Thus, in the future, cities across the nation may develop innovative approaches to civilian oversight of police misconduct, in a continuing effort to increase public confidence in the integrity of law enforcement.

Civilian review of police misconduct cases is intended to be an effective, unbiased method of controlling police abuse, and it exists in the majority of the nation’s largest cities.[115] Citizens of municipalities that lack any form of civilian oversight are rallying with increasing urgency for the creation of such review boards, especially in the wake of repeated police abuse incidents. According to news reports, Peoria, Illinois; Norfolk, Virginia; the town of Brunswick, in Jacksonville, Florida; and Huntington, West Virginia; are just a few of the cities that have suffered from the effects of police brutality, which usually lead to strained relationships between the police and the communities they serve.[116] Despite these concerns, many city leaders remain resistant to the idea of civilian “interference” with law enforcement. As discussed earlier, Representative Michael McAlevey of Bangor, Maine, explained that he did not oppose civilian review of the findings of an investigation into police misconduct, but that trained law enforcement professionals should conduct the actual investigation.[117] In Charleston, West Virginia, State Police Superintendent Gary Edgell expressed the view that the police review board was sufficient to oversee complaints of police misconduct.[118] The Fraternal Order of Police in Louisville, Kentucky, sought an injunction against the city’s civilian review ordinance, in an effort to “nip it in the bud.” One member said, “We would rather try to get it declared illegal now before it gets started.’’[119]

Skeptics of these civilian complaint boards contend that while they provide residents with a means of expressing their views of the local police department, the civilian complaint process rarely results in any modifications in police practices.[120] For example, residents of Portland, Connecticut, protested a proposal to amend the town’s charter in order to create a police commission. The proposed police commission would be charged with reviewing civilian complaints and police officer grievances, hiring and firing officers, and negotiating union agreements.[121] Although there is no formal system in Portland for addressing citizen complaints of alleged police misconduct, one community member inquired, “Where’s the benefits? . . . I don’t see why this is being offered at this time.”[122]

Some authorities also observe that when members of the public request civilian oversight of police activities, the underlying reason stems from their mistrust of the police to fairly examine and correct their own activities.[123] For example, the 1998 fatal shooting of Shirley Ansley, a 56-year-old unarmed mentally ill woman, by an officer of the Jacksonville (Florida) Sheriff’s Office prompted local residents to renew their requests for a civilian review board.[124] Furthermore, supporters of civilian oversight maintain that this process creates avenues for improvement in internal regulation of police departments. As demonstrated in San Francisco, the Office of Citizen Complaints derives proposed policy changes from civilian complaints and forwards civilians’ recommendations to the police department.[125] Similarly, an independent auditor reviewed the San Jose (California) Police Department’s civilian complaint procedure and suggested 24 recommendations for improvement.[126] According to Samuel Walker, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, who commented on the Los Angeles Police Department,

oversight helps to transform the organizational culture of a police department in three important ways. First, independent external scrutiny helps identify the erosion of standards that the LAPD now concedes it failed to identify on its own. Second, periodic public reports provide a window into a police department that informs citizens and responsible elected officials about problems that need attention. Third, the experience of being routinely subject to external scrutiny eventually breaks down the sort of insular, hostile attitude that’s at the heart of the LAPD’s organizational culture. Police departments in other cities have come to accept the value of this independent perspective.[127]

Chattanooga’s (Tennessee) Citizens Review Committee of the Chattanooga Police Department is composed of nine members and three alternates, who are appointed by the Chattanooga City Council.[128] Police Chief Jimmie Dotson maintained that the Citizens Review Committee was created to increase community support of the police department, as well as to retain local trust in the investigative process of police misconduct allegations.[129] Although the review committee is empowered with the ability to request a more expansive inquiry into investigations that may require additional information, the police chief has the ultimate review of the cases.[130]

For the most part, civilian review boards do not possess the authority to do anything more than review internal investigations by the police. Thus, the civilian review boards that the Commission reviewed in Guardians often failed in their efforts to address police misconduct because “they were advisory only, having no power to decide cases or impose punishment, and . . . they lacked sufficient staffs and resources.”[131] Because these boards lack any enforcement powers and do not possess the authority to carry out the discipline of abusive officers, many citizens have lost faith in their effectiveness.[132]

Barriers to Effective Civilian Oversight

The effectiveness of any civilian oversight process can be hampered by an inappropriate administrative structure, inadequate funding and staffing, limited or ambiguous authority, or an uncooperative police department.[133] For example, in Dallas, Texas, the City Council limited the Dallas Citizens Police Review Board’s authority six months after its creation in 1988.[134] The board also experienced a referendum defeat in 1989, which would have granted it subpoena power and the ability to discipline police officers. Furthermore, in 1999, only eight of the 15 review board positions were filled, due to members who had forfeited their positions because of poor attendance and the failure of some City Council members to appoint review board members.[135] Review board chairman, Paul Lietz, stated, “As it is, it is a horrible deception of the public when they come to us thinking they can get relief . . . We can concur [with the police findings], disagree or make recommendations. What happens when we make recommendations? Nothing, for the most part.”[136]

Most civilian review boards do not have the power to impose penalties on police officers and they simply recommend disciplinary actions to police officials.[137] Indeed, of the nation’s 12 largest police departments, only four are empowered to investigate complaints on their own.[138] Police Lieutenant Eric Adams, president of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, explained that the efficiency of civilian review boards is undermined because they must rely, in part, on the cooperation of police departments they have been sent to investigate.[139] Thus, without subpoena power, external review boards cannot access records or compel testimony that would further their investigations. Many police officers are reluctant or simply refuse to cooperate or offer any assistance to investigations that would incriminate their fellow officers. Despite this clear impediment, many police unions and city officials continue to oppose granting subpoena power to civilian review boards.[140] Even boards with subpoena power sometimes face intense resistance from police officers and other officials who refuse to testify or turn over documents and other evidence.[141] Therefore, the efforts of many well-meaning civilian review boards may be thwarted due to their own inadequacies and lack of authority.

Review boards typically suffer from this lack of authority and subpoena power, which prevents them from carrying out their mandates. The Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards is composed of civilian investigators who register and investigate all complaints of police misconduct.[142] Critics of the office note, however, that it does not have subpoena power, unlike other civilian review boards, and reports directly to police department officials who may reject its findings.[143] Similarly, in Detroit, Michigan, if the civilian review board determines that a complaint against an officer is serious, it will refer the complaint to the internal affairs division of the police department, which has the responsibility to carry out the investigation and discipline.[144] Charleston (West Virginia) Mayor Jay Goldman disbanded the city’s five-member civilian board in August 2000. Former board member Marvin Frame maintained, “We were largely a listening, advisory group to the chief [of police] and internal affairs.”[145] The board’s functions were then transferred to the Charleston City Council’s Public Safety Committee, which has additional authority, such as subpoena power.[146] The Human Rights Watch noted that the former mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, called for the creation of a civilian review board “apparently without realizing one already existed (thus proving how marginal the pre-existing board had become).”[147]

In New York City, residents and city officials have varying perceptions of the effectiveness of civilian oversight. Norman Siegel, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, indicated that local government entities do not give civilian complaints of police misconduct priority consideration. As a result, New York City residents perceive the CCRB as ineffective, and police officers are not intimidated by civilian oversight authority.[148] According to Mr. Siegel, New York’s police commissioner only disciplined about 25 percent of the police officers involved in 1,543 cases that were referred to him for review from 1996 through June of 1999.[149] In contrast, Police Commissioner Howard Safir remarked, “If Mr. Siegel looked, he would find that we discipline officers in the highest percentage of cases ever in the [police] department, and we continue to do that, and we [take it] very seriously.”[150] Statistics reveal, however, that few police abuse complaints are substantiated following civilian review. In New York City, only one out of every 20 complaints filed with the Civilian Complaint Review Board is substantiated.[151]

The relatively low rate of complaints that are sustained by review boards may illustrate a deeper problem rooted in many forms of civilian review: the tendency of civilians to support the police. The Human Rights Watch discussed this concern in relation to jury acquittals of police officers who have been accused of wrongdoing: “[e]ven with apparently foolproof cases against police officers, juries have often been reluctant to find officers guilty of criminal conduct, particularly where the incident occurred while they were on duty.”[152] This same bias may also influence the civilian review process. If a civilian who is sitting as a juror is reluctant to convict an accused officer, a civilian who is part of a police review board may be prone to the same tendencies when faced with a complaint against an officer.[153]

Inadequate funding is a major impediment to the effectiveness of many civilian review boards. Without sufficient funding by local governments, civilian review boards lack the staffing and other resources necessary to investigate citizen complaints properly. According to James Fyfe, civilian review boards are often so severely underfunded that they appear to be “designed to fail.”[154] Charlie Kluge, director of the Police Advisory Commission in Philadelphia, echoed Dr. Fyfe’s assessment of the budgetary problems plaguing civilian review boards. “I can tell you most civilian review boards are funded to fail. You don’t get attaboys from the politicians because for the most part, they’d love to avoid the issue of civilian review,” he said.[155] Ronald Hampton, director of the National Black Police Association, explained, “When someone from a minority community goes to a commission and it’s not properly funded, your complaint doesn’t seem to be taken seriously, and you lose faith in that process too.”[156]

Financial neglect and wavering support from government agencies can lead to the demise of any civilian review board. After several years of unresolved citizen complaints and a mounting backlog of 900 cases, Washington, D.C.’s review board was shut down in 1994.[157] And despite $1.2 million in federal funds being subsequently allocated to revamp the review board, several council members in Washington, D.C., complained that the city’s police department was simply wasting those funds, which remained unspent long after they had been secured.[158] New York City’s civilian review board faces a similar fate with a backlog of approximately 2,000 cases and repeated complaints from City Council members that the board is being purposely neglected by city officials who oppose it. According to Fernando Ferrer, Bronx Borough president, the city’s budget “rolls over CCRB funds that it needed to spend this fiscal year and adds other funds but still leaves it short of funding to act as a true police monitor.”[159] If residents are left to conclude that their complaints are unimportant by virtue of an ineffective civilian review process, frustration and tension between members of the public and the police will undoubtedly continue. It remains to be seen whether a truly independent civilian review board can be developed that will be effective in combating police brutality.

Civilian review boards provide important protection against police abuses, and they afford members of the public the opportunity to have a voice in police practices and procedures. Without some form of external review, investigation and discipline of police officers will be left up to the discretion of other officers or police officials who may be sympathetic to or biased in favor of the accused officers. In the end, the empowerment of civilian review boards may prove to be the most effective weapon in the battle to end police brutality.


Since 1981, when the Commission published Guardians, few changes have been implemented to improve the effectiveness of external controls of police misconduct. City government officials continue to be perceived as being tough on crime but soft on police brutality. Police misconduct remains largely unchecked because most officers and police officials view any form of outside “interference” as unnecessary and intrusive. Civilian review boards across the country still lack adequate funding, resources, and support to properly address the thousands of complaints they receive each year. When external measures are employed to curb misconduct, investigations are usually hindered due to resistance from uncooperative police officers and their representatives. Some of the more novel approaches to external review, however, are gaining acceptance and may prove to be more successful in combating police misconduct. The newer methods, such as the use of solicitors general, independent auditors, and federal oversight, present viable alternatives to the failed attempts of the past to control police abuse. Creative efforts must be explored to address this persistent problem, or police misconduct may continue to plague America’s cities for generations to come.


The Commission reiterates its findings and recommendations set forth in Guardians, many of which have not yet been realized.

City Government

Finding 4.1: As the Commission found in Guardians and other reports, city officials continue to hold the most influence over how external review procedures are conducted. They guide the overall attitude of their police officers regarding misconduct issues. Mayors, police commissioners, and police chiefs who demonstrate a “zero tolerance” for police misconduct are more likely to reduce tensions between the police and the public. On the other hand, officials perceived to be tough on crime but soft on police brutality will likely face diminished support from their constituents and continued tensions between the police and the public.

Recommendation 4.1: Officials at every level of city government must make a concerted effort to eliminate all forms of police misconduct. There should be complete cooperation among the various government entities and police representatives, to ensure the success of any policy or program designed to address police misconduct. Government officials should encourage the creation and development of all forms of external oversight, including civilian review boards and independent auditors or solicitors general. A comprehensive method of controlling police misconduct should be based on a tripartite system that balances oversight powers between the police and the communities they serve. Such a model would include (1) internal police department review and disciplinary recommendations, (2) external review of the department’s findings by a solicitor general, and (3) civilian review by an independent board with full subpoena power and final discretion regarding disciplinary measures.

State Prosecutions and Federal Oversight

Finding 4.2: State prosecution of police misconduct cases remains an ineffective means of correcting the problem. Most district or county attorneys rely heavily on the support and cooperation of the police departments in their jurisdictions, and as such, they are reluctant to pursue criminal charges against them.

Recommendation 4.2: The appointment of an independent, or special prosecutor, assigned solely to police misconduct cases would increase the frequency and quality of investigations and prosecutions of police abuse incidents. Although local prosecutors are often responsible for requesting that a special prosecutor be appointed when a conflict of interest arises, an independent auditor or solicitor general overseeing police misconduct cases should also be allowed to make the request.

Finding 4.3: The use of federal monitors to analyze issues surrounding police misconduct in individual jurisdictions adds another useful measure of external oversight. Through such monitoring, the federal government may find circumstances that warrant further action, such as the enforcement of one of the civil rights statutes designed to combat police brutality and misconduct.

Recommendation 4.3: The appointment of federal monitors should be viewed as necessary assistance and not an unwelcome intrusion by police agencies and administrators. Police officers and their supervisors should be encouraged to cooperate with their efforts.

Civilian Review Boards

Finding 4.4: The Commission explained in its reports on police brutality in New Jersey, southern West Virginia, and in Tampa, Florida, that civilian review boards can be especially useful in eliminating police brutality. Despite decades of reforms in police practices, many municipalities around the country are still without any form of civilian review. As the Commission found in its reports on police practices in Chicago and New York, most civilian boards that do exist are severely underfunded, understaffed, and lack any enforcement power.

Recommendation 4.4: Civilian review boards should be implemented in every municipality. The funding and support for these entities should remain a high priority for all elected officials, regardless of their political perspectives. All civilian review boards should have subpoena power and disciplinary authority over police misconduct investigations, in conjunction with, but not subordinate to, police internal affairs divisions.

[1] See chapter 3 for a complete discussion of internal controls of police misconduct.

[2] U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Who Is Guarding the Guardians? October 1981 (hereafter cited as USCCR, Guardians).

[3] Ibid., finding 4.1, p. 160.

[4] U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Police Integrity: Public Service With Honor, National Institute of Justice and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, January 1997, p. 33. 

[5] Human Rights Watch, “Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States,” June 1998, <> (Sept. 14, 2000) (hereafter cited as Human Rights Watch, “Shielded from Justice”). 

[6] U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Racial and Ethnic Tensions in American Communities: Poverty, Inequality, and Discrimination, Volume V: The Los Angeles Report, May 1999, p. 22 (hereafter cited as USCCR, Los Angeles Report).

[7] Ibid., p. 32.

[8] Ibid., p. 33. Chief Bernard Parks succeeded Chief Williams in 1997. See Terry McDermott, “Behind the Bunker Mentality; Professional, Aggressive Policing Made LAPD a Global Model,” The Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2000, p. A1.

[9] USCCR, Los Angeles Report, p. 37.

[10] Ibid., pp. 36–37. For example, police officers’ use of the baton declined from 15 percent of all uses of force to 2 percent in 1995. Katherine Mader eventually left her position as inspector general, reportedly due to her frustration caused by unreasonable limitations on her authority. According to one source, Mader was told that she was limited in what she could investigate and restricted to having access only to aggregate data, not individual case files. She was even instructed that she could not speak to the civilian Police Commission that manages the department, but instead could report only to its executive director. See Erwin Chemerinsky, “Learning the Wrong Lessons from History: Why There Must be an Independent Counsel Law,” Widener Law Symposium Journal, vol. 5 (2000), p. 8. 

[11] USCCR, Los Angeles Report, p. 39. 

[12] Ibid.

[13] Doug Shuit, “Mayor Vows Tracking System for Officers,” The Los Angeles Times, May 8, 2000, p. B3. Richard Riordan and Bernard Parks succeeded Tom Bradley and Willie Williams as the mayor and police chief of Los Angeles, respectively.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Editorial Writers Desk, “Rampart: Seizing an Opportunity,” The Los Angeles Times, Sept. 18, 2000, p. B6.

[16] Ibid. 

[17] Ibid.

[18] Human Rights Watch, “Shielded from Justice,” Police Administration, The Key to Reform.

[19] The United States Conference of Mayors, “New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial Reelected,” Feb. 13, 1998, <http://www. Orleans_Mayor_Marc_Morial_Reelected_021398.html>  (Sept. 20, 2000).

[20] Fredrick Kunkle and Jamie Stockwell, “Cracking Down in Prince George’s,” The Washington Post, Sept. 22, 2000, p. A1.

[21] Rick Ruggles, “Who Polices Police?” The Omaha-World Herald, July 19, 2000, p. 1.

[22] Human Rights Watch, “Shielded from Justice,” Citizen Review Mechanisms.

[23] Rick Ruggles, “Do Police Auditors Have an Impact?” The Omaha-World Herald, July 26, 2000, p. 1.

[24] Ibid. 

[25] Human Rights Watch, “Shielded from Justice,” Police Administration, The Key to Reform. 

[26] Virginia Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Unequal Justice: African Americans in the Virginia Criminal Justice System, April 2000, p. 43; Kansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Police-Community Relations in the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County, July 1980, p. 34.

[27] See Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Police Protection of the African American Community in Chicago, September 1993, p. 29; South Dakota Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Native Americans in South Dakota: An Erosion of Confidence in the Justice System, March 2000, pp. 13–14; Nevada Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Police-Community Relations in Reno, Nevada, May 1992, pp. 24–25; Wisconsin Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Police Protection of the African American Community in Milwaukee, November 1994, p. 44; U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Racial and Ethnic Tensions in American Communities: Poverty, Inequality, and Discrimination, Volume VI: The New York Report, December 1999, pp. 14–15 (hereafter cited as USCCR, New York Report); U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Western Regional Office, Police-Community Relations in San Jose, April 1980, p. 7.

[28] Emmet Meara, “Legislative Panel Nixes Civilian Review Board,” The Bangor Daily News, Jan. 11, 2000.

[29] Ibid. Later, Representative McAlevey explained that he did not oppose civilian input on public policy and the findings of investigations, but he reiterated that trained law enforcement professionals should conduct the investigations. 

[30] See Juan Gonzalez, “Abusive Cops Roam Free,” The Daily News (New York), Feb. 26, 1999, p. 20. 

[31] C.J. Chivers, “Approval and Wariness in Poll on Police,” The New York Times, Sept. 15, 2000, p. B9.

[32] William Rashbaum, “Mayor’s Panel Faults Police Department on Discipline System for Officers,” The New York Times, p. A1.

[33] Mike Claffey and John Marzulli, “Deal Near on Cop Probe,” The Daily News (New York), July 6, 2000, p. 5.

[34] Dave Goldiner, “Rev. Al Presses Reno, Urges Federal Monitor of NYPD, Raps Commish,” The Daily News (New York), Aug. 26, 2000, p. 8. 

[35] Robert Louden, statement before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, National Police Practices and Civil Rights Briefing, June 16, 2000, transcript, p. 103 (hereafter cited as Police Practices Briefing Transcript).

[36] USCCR, Los Angeles Report, p. 117.

[37] USCCR, Guardians, finding 4.2, p. 160.

[38] See, e.g., U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Policing in Cincinnati, Ohio: Official Policy vs. Civilian Reality, January 1981, pp. 37–39. At the time the report was issued, no Cincinnati police officer had ever been prosecuted for assault against a civilian while on duty. Similarly, in Chicago, between 1982 and 1992, local and federal prosecutors prosecuted only six police officers for abuse of citizens. Five of the six were acquitted, and the sixth was convicted of a misdemeanor. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Racial and Ethnic Tensions in American Communities: Poverty, Inequality, and Discrimination, Volume III: The Chicago Report, September 1995, p. 137 (hereafter cited as USCCR, Chicago Report).

[39] Human Rights Watch, “Shielded from Justice,” Local Criminal Prosecution.

[40] Louis B. Schwartz, “Complaints Against the Police: Experience of the Community Rights Division of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, vol. 118 (1970), pp. 1023–24. 

[41] Ibid.

[42] Peter L. Davis, “Rodney King and the Decriminalization of Police Brutality in America: Direct and Judicial Access to the Grand Jury as Remedies for Victims of Police Brutality When the Prosecutor Declines to Prosecute,” Maryland Law Review, vol. 53 (1994), p. 291.

[43] A “conflict of interest” is generally defined as “a situation in which regard for one duty tends to lead to disregard of another.” Black’s Law Dictionary 299 (6th ed. 1990). 

[44] See U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Police Practices and Civil Rights in New York City, August 2000, recommendation 4.13, p. 84 (hereafter cited as USCCR, Police Practices in New York City); USCCR, Los Angeles Report, recommendation 4.7, p. 219.

[45] USCCR, Los Angeles Report, finding 4.7, p. 219. 

[46] Leon Drouin Keith, “Report Calls for Special Prosecutor for LAPD, Change in Culture,” The Associated Press State & Local Wire, Sept. 12, 2000. 

[47] Ibid., p. 118. 

[48] Ibid. 

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Erwin Chemerinsky, “Learning the Wrong Lessons from History: Why There Must be an Independent Counsel Law,” Widener Law Symposium Journal, vol. 5 (2000), p. 15, n. 29. 

[52] USCCR, Police Practices in New York City, finding 4.13, p. 84. 

[53] C.J. Chivers, “Approval and Wariness in Poll on Police,” The New York Times, Sept. 15, 2000, p. B9.

[54] Angie Brunkow, “ ‘Tainting’ Fear Stalls Kruse Case,” The Omaha World-Herald, Aug. 18, 2000, p. 19. 

[55] James Zambroski, “The Firing of Louisville’s Police Chief; Community Groups, Activists Decry Police Department Actions,” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), Mar. 3, 2000, p. A13. 

[56] Mike McPhee, “Suit Promised in Police Chase Suspect’s Civil Rights Violated,” The Denver Post, Feb. 17, 2000, p. B5. 

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid.

[59] USCCR, Guardians, p. 115. The Department of Justice prosecutes police misconduct under several civil rights statutes, including 18 U.S.C. § 241 (1994 & Supp. IV 1998), which makes it unlawful for two or more persons to agree together to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory or district in the free exercise of his or her civil rights, and 18 U.S.C. § 242 (1994 & Supp. IV 1998), which makes it a crime for a person acting under color of any law to willfully deprive a person of his or her civil rights. Further, under the 1994 Crime Bill, 42 U.S.C. § 14141(a) (1994), the Justice Department has the authority to file civil suits against law enforcement agencies that engage in a pattern of misconduct. These statutes and their related cases will be discussed more extensively in chapter 5.

[60] U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Racial and Ethnic Tensions in American Communities: Poverty, Inequality, and Discrimination, Volume I: The Mount Pleasant Report, January 1993, p. 38 (hereafter cited as USCCR, Mount Pleasant Report).

[61] South Dakota Advisory Committee, Native Americans in South Dakota, p. 35.

[62] USCCR, Los Angeles Report, p. 203. 

[63] Mike Claffey and John Marzulli, “Deal Near on Cop Probe,” The Daily News (New York), July 6, 2000, p. 5. 

[64] Abner Louima is a Haitian immigrant who was sodomized by a New York City police officer with a toilet plunger inside of a Brooklyn precinct house. All four officers charged with participating in the attack have since been convicted and imprisoned for their acts. See USCCR, Police Practices in New York City, pp. 6–7. 

[65] Claffey and Marzulli, “Deal Near on Cop Probe.”

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Goldiner, “Rev. Al Presses Reno,” p. 8. At the time of this writing, negotiations were ongoing between New York City and the Justice Department. Ibid.

[69] Leon Drouin Keith, “Report Calls for Special Prosecutor for LAPD, Change in Culture,” The Associated Press State & Local Wire, Sept. 12, 2000. 

[70] Ibid. 

[71] Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Oversight Hearing on the Civil Rights Division, Washington, D.C., Federal News Service, July 12, 2000. 

[72] Mark Schaver, “Investigations Show What Louisville Can Expect; Police under eye of Justice; U.S. seeking similar actions from cities,” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), July 2, 2000, p. A1. 

[73] Ibid.

[74] Ibid.

[75] USCCR, Guardians, p. 50. 

[76] Ibid., p. 50; see Brett Martel, “Lawmakers Hope Police will Back Creating Citizen Review Boards,” The Charleston Gazette, Feb. 13, 1999, p. A2.

[77] See Lorraine Ahear, “Police at Odds Over Debate of Review Board,” News & Record (Greensboro, NC), June 26, 1994, p. A1. “The boards, usually created as the result of a racial incident or police scandal, can recommend disciplinary action to a police chief but cannot impose discipline themselves.” Ibid. 

[78] Gerald Woods, The Police in Los Angeles: Reform and Professionalization (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993), p. 238.

[79] Jerome H. Skolnick and James J. Fyfe, Above the Law: Police and the Excessive Use of Force (New York: The Free Press, 1993), pp. 220–21. “[The] seven-member board was headed by Algernon D. Black, who is a leader of the Ethical Culture Society and a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union. . . . [F]our civilians were recommended by an eleven-member panel chaired by a former Republican Attorney General, Herbert Brownell, Jr. All three police representatives had law degrees, and one had been a special agent of the FBI for 25 years. Minority group members included two blacks, one of them a Deputy Commissioner of Police. One member was a Puerto Rican.” Ibid., p. 221. See Donna De La Cruz, “Report: CCRB Ineffective in Monitoring Police Misconduct,” The Associated Press, State & Local Wire, Dec. 30, 1999, Thursday p.m. cycle (hereafter cited as De La Cruz, “CCRB Ineffective”). In 1953, the original civilian oversight board comprised entirely high-ranking police officials. 

[80] Ibid., p. 221; see Tara L. Senkel, “Civilians Often Need Protection from the Police: Let’s Handcuff Police Brutality,” New York Law School Journal of Human Rights, vol. 15 (1999), p. 416.

[81] Skolnick and Fyfe, Above the Law, p. 221. “The most widely posted, most effective, and most alarming placard showed a young girl fearfully leaving a subway exit onto a darkened street. Its text: ‘The Civilian Review Board must be stopped? Her life, your life, may depend on it.’ ” Ibid.

[82] Ibid., pp. 221–22.

[83] Amy Argetsinger, “Bid Stalls for Police Oversight: Call for Civilian Panel Gets a Tepid Reception,” The Washington Post, Jan. 30, 1997, p. M1.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Conrad deFiebre, “Board Members Picked to Review Internal Probes of St. Paul Police,” The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), Sept. 17, 1993, p. B5.

[86] Ibid. “The board will direct and review investigations of officers by the Police Department’s internal affairs unit, make findings of fact, and recommendations of discipline to the police chief.” Ibid. 

[87] Anne Braden, “Civilian Review—An Overdue Step,” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), May 7, 2000, p. D3. Anne Braden is a civil rights leader in Louisville, Kentucky. She is a member of the board of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. See ibid. During this time, the city ordinance that would have created a civilian review board had the sole support of the only African American member of the Board of Aldermen.

[88] Ibid.

[89] Skolnick and Fyfe, Above the Law, p. 223.

[90] Ibid. “The reactions included a demonstration by 10,000 off-duty police officers, many of whom engaged in rowdy and threatening behavior, blocking the Brooklyn Bridge, roughing up reporters and cameramen, and demeaning the mayor and passers-by in the ugliest racist terms. Ironically, the early public reactions tallied in the unscientific man-in-the-street polls of radio and television news shows suggest that the vile police conduct at this demonstration has convinced even the formerly most staunch supporters of the police that Dinkins is correct in his argument that the police should not be permitted to review their own conduct.” Ibid.

[91] Senkel, “Civilians Often Need Protection from the Police,” p. 416. “The Mayor selected five members, the City Council recommended five members, one from each borough, and the Police Commissioner selected three members.” Ibid.

[92] See USCCR, Los Angeles Report, p. 120; Nevada Advisory Committee, Police-Community Relations in Reno, p. 24; USCCR, Chicago Report, pp. 108–09.

[93] Lynne Wilson, “The public’s right of access to police misconduct files,” Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Law Report, vol. 4, no. 7 (January–February 1994).

[94] Professor David Harris, remarks given at the Congressional Black Caucus’ Discussion on Law Enforcement Accountability: Safe Streets & Sacrificing Civil Liberties, Washington, D.C., Sept. 15, 2000 < social_policy> (Sept. 26, 2000).

[95] Sean Hecker, “Race and Pretextual Traffic Stops: An Expanding Role for Civilian Review,” Columbia Human Rights Law Review, vol. 28 (Spring 1997), p. 595 (citing Samuel Walker and Vic W. Bumphus, Civilian Review of the Police: A National Survey of the 50 Largest Cities, 1991).

[96] Ibid.

[97] Ibid., p. 596. Among all cities, this is the most common form of civilian review board.

[98] Ibid.

[99] Ibid.; see Jason Spencer, “Police Plan is Result of Trade-Offs,” Austin American-Statesman, May 30, 2000, p. B1. The civilian oversight board in Richmond, California, employs a full-time autonomous investigator to examine almost all the complaints against police officers. Ibid.

[100] Skolnick and Fyfe, Above the Law, p. 223. Internal affairs and independent investigators each conduct their own inquiry into the validity of a complaint. Ibid.

[101] Ibid., pp. 223–24.

[102] Ibid., p. 224. The authors note that some cities have variations of these forms of civilian oversight. Ibid.

[103] James Fyfe, Police Practices Briefing Transcript, pp. 26–27.

[104] Ibid.

[105] Louden, Police Practices Briefing Transcript, pp. 36–37.

[106] Ibid., p. 37.

[107] Ibid.

[108] Ibid.

[109] Ibid., pp. 37–38.

[110] Ibid., pp. 37–39.

[111] Ibid., pp. 37–38. See also ibid., pp. 38–41. They seek to bring American police practices to emerging democracies. One outcome from these academies is the Human Dignity and Police Program, which facilitates a discussion on human dignity among the police and community members. The program examines human rights, police abuses, and solutions to developing better relations. Dr. Louden hoped this program would be marketed throughout the world, particularly in the United States. He also mentioned his involvement with the creation of a new police force and police system in Northern Ireland. An intensive study was done of this divided society with its divided policing. Although very different from the United States, certain issues are shared between the two countries: diversity with regard to gender, religious diversity (analogous to the racial diversity in the United States), and civilian overview of police forces. Dr. Louden noted: “Sometimes we have to kind of look back at somebody else to see what we have got going here.” Ibid. To that end, he believed a comprehensive study of police practices should be done in the United States. It should involve a collaboration among social scientists, behavioral scientists, and the police. Ibid.

[112] Hubert Williams, Police Practices Briefing Transcript, p. 51.

[113] Ibid.

[114] Ibid., p. 52.

[115] USCCR, Chicago Report, p. 108.

[116] Pam Adams, “Peoria Police Need Outside Oversight,” Copley News Service, Sept. 20, 2000; Meredith Kruse, “Mediator Seeks To Bridge Gap In Police Relations,” The Virginian-Pilot, Sept. 8, 2000, p. B1; Terry Dickson, “Recall Bid on Mayor of Brunswick,” The Florida-Times Union, Aug. 3, 2000, p. A1; Editorial, “Unfair ‘Profiling’ Young Blacks,” The Charleston Gazette, Aug. 30, 2000, p. 4A.

[117] Emmet Meara, “Legislative Panel Nixes Civilian Review Board,” The Bangor Daily News, Jan. 11, 2000.

[118] Randy Coleman, “State Police Fighting for Overtime Money, Against Review Board,” The Associated Press State & Local Wire, Feb. 7, 2000.

[119] James Zambroski, “City Fights FOP Challenge of Civilian Review Plan,” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), July 26, 2000, p. B3.

[120] Lyda Longa, “Review Board to Get Alleged Bearing Case,” The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Jan. 13, 2000, p. C1. See James Zambroski, “Civilian Review Board for Police Debated at Louisville Forum,” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), Apr. 13, 2000, p. B3 (hereafter cited as Zambroski, “Civilian Review”). Mark Miller, Esq., Fraternal Order of Police, commented on a proposed ordinance to allow a third party to conduct independent investigations of alleged police misconduct. He maintained that civilian review currently exists through the civil service board, a coroner’s inquest, and a 
grand jury. Ibid.

[121] Dwight F. Blint, “Police Board Proposal Opposed,” The Hartford Courant, June 1, 2000, p. B1.

[122] Ibid.

[123] Geov Parrish, “Calling for a Crackdown,” The Seattle Weekly, June 29, 2000, p. 26; Skolnick and Fyfe, Above the Law, p. 224; Edward Fitzpatrick, “Complaints About Cops Rise,” The Times Union (Albany, NY), Feb. 8, 1998, p. A1. Alice P. Green, executive director of the Center for Law and Justice, indicated that many residents will not file a complaint against a police officer due to their fear of reprisal or their lack of information about the complaint system. See Edward J. Littlejohn, “The Civilian Police Commission: A Deterrent of Police Misconduct,” University of Detroit Journal of Urban Law, vol. 59 (1981), pp. 5, 8; Steven Gray, “Demand for Oversight—Citizen Groups Want Role in Probes of Police,” The Washington Post, Dec. 16, 1999, p. M1. “Many Montgomery [County, Maryland,] residents want . . . a fully-empowered independent board charged with investigating complaints against police officers. The demand made by the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], the American Civil Liberties Union and 10 other organizations persists despite the partial results of a three-year U.S. Justice Department investigation publicized earlier this month. So far, the review of 300 citizen complaints found that Montgomery police did not use excessive force in several cases involving minorities. It did conclude that African Americans receive 21 percent of traffic tickets, although they make up fewer than 15 percent of the county’s population.” Gray, “Demand for Oversight.”

See also Jack Money and Steve Lackmeyer, “Citizen Review Board Not A Magic Bullet,” The Daily Oklahoman, Oct. 25, 1999, city edition. According to Deborah Wilson, chairwoman of the Louisville Police Administration Advisory Committee, this committee was created because minority residents wanted to ensure police treat their complaints as seriously as white residents’ concerns.

[124] Sean Gardiner, “Shooting Brings Calls for Public Review: Citizens Board Would Police the Police,” The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, FL), Feb. 23, 1998, p. A1. “The Jacksonville branch of the NAACP supports the creation of a civilian review board to improve the public’s confidence in the sheriff’s office. In addition, according to Sam Walker, a criminology professor at the University of Nebraska, Jacksonville is one of the few big cities left [in the United States] that does not have a civilian oversight system.” Ibid. But see ibid. “Jacksonville Sheriff Nat Glover and other police union officials view civilian review boards as unnecessary. ‘To bring someone in and have them review what law enforcement does without training is ludicrous. We’re totally against it,’ said David Stevens, president of Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5-30. Glover said he sees no need for another layer of review because the current system of checks and balances works. . . . [C]itizens’ complaints about less serious police misconduct are sent to the supervisor of the officer in question. More serious allegations are investigated by the department’s Internal Affairs unit. [In 1997] Internal Affairs received 523 citizens’ complaints.” Ibid.

[125] Samuel Walker, “How to Make Cops Accountable,” The Los Angeles Times, Mar. 6, 2000, p. B5. See Mike Martindale, “Police Review Board Sought—Royal Oak Group Calls for Changes, Updates in Department,” The Detroit News, Mar. 22, 2000, p. 4; Zambroski, “Civilian Review”; Keith Hunter, Esq., stated, “I believe [Louisville, KY, police department’s internal affairs division] . . . do a good job, that they take their job seriously and they are very good at what they do. . . . Civilian Review is needed, however, because some complaints ‘fall through the cracks’ and are not properly investigated.” Zambroski, “Civilian Review.”

[126] Walker, “How to Make Cops Accountable.”

[127] Ibid.

[128] Dick Cook, “Citizens Police Review Panel Begins Active Work This Week, The Chattanooga Times—Chattanooga Free Press, July 11, 1999, p. B3.

[129] Ibid.

[130] Ibid.

[131] USCCR, Guardians, finding 4.6, p. 163.

[132] USCCR, New York Report, pp. 14–15.

[133] See Skolnick and Fyfe, Above the Law, pp. 227–29. Cf. James Zambroski, “Police Union Files Grievance on Civilian Review,” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), June 24, 2000, p. B6. The Louisville Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) filed a grievance alleging that a city ordinance violates its union labor agreement. The ordinance provides the civilian review board with subpoena power to obtain testimony from witnesses of alleged police misconduct incidents. The FOP maintained that according to a provision in its union contract, only the police department’s internal affairs division is authorized to investigate complaints of alleged police misconduct. Ibid.

[134] Dave Michaels, “Police Review Board Calls for More Power,” The Dallas Morning News, Apr. 17, 1999, p. A1 (hereafter cited as Michaels, “Police Review”); see also Lee Hammel, “Officials Oppose Police Review Board,” The Telegram & Gazette, Mar. 14, 2000, p. A1. Similarly, despite public testimony supporting the creation of a civilian review board, Worcester, Massachusetts, city administration officials opposed the proposal. Instead, the Human Rights Commission recommended that it should monitor the civilian oversight process and forward complaints to the internal affairs division of the police department. Ibid.

[135] Michaels, “Police Review.” “Council member Larry Duncan has not appointed a review board member since 1995, records show. Council member Steve Salazar’s position is also vacant. ‘It’s a real tough position to fill,’ Mr. Duncan said. ‘We need someone who is going to be sensitive to the citizens’ concerns and somebody who understands the police officer.’ ” Ibid.

[136] Ibid.

[137] USCCR, Chicago Report, p. 108, n. 28.

[138] Michelle Boorstein, “Weak Power, Resources Make It Tough Going for Police Watchdogs,” The Chicago Tribune, Apr. 27, 1998, p. 2.

[139] Michael Kramer, “A Black Cop on a Mission,” The Daily News (New York), Sept. 5, 1999, p. 55.

[140] James Zambrowski, “City fights FOP challenge of civilian review plan,” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), July 26, 2000, p. B3.

[141] Indrani Sen, “Review Panel Under Attack,” The Boston Globe, Oct. 23, 1999, p. B1.

[142] USCCR, Chicago Report, p. 108.

[143] Ibid.

[144] Human Rights Watch, “Shielded from Justice,” Detroit: Civilian Review Board.

[145] Rusty Marks, “Dissolving Police Board Not A Bad Idea, Five Members Say,” The Charleston Gazette, Aug. 10, 2000, p. 1C. Mr. Frame added that the board had no power to enforce their recommendations. Ibid.

[146] Ibid. “Police Chief Jerry Riffe said the public safety committee has little more authority than the board did. ‘They can’t order me to suspend anybody,’ he said. ‘They can’t order me to fire anybody.’ But he said the committee does have more influence over the police chief, because he is required to attend their meetings.” Ibid.

[147] Human Rights Watch, “Shielded from Justice,” Atlanta: Civilian Review Board.

[148] De La Cruz, “CCRB Ineffective.”

[149] Ibid. There were 15,000 complaints filed against police officers during that time.

[150] Ibid.

[151] Juan Gonzalez, “Abusive Cops Roam Free,” The Daily News (New York), Feb. 26, 1999, p. 20.

[152] Human Rights Watch, “Shielded from Justice,” Local Criminal Prosecutions.

[153] See ibid.

[154] Fyfe, Police Practices Briefing Transcript, p. 27.

[155] Michelle Boorstein, “Weak Power, Resources Make It Tough Going for Police Watchdogs,” The Chicago Tribune, Apr. 27, 1998, p. 2.

[156] David Rohde, “Civilian Boards Strain for Funds to Watch Cops,” Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 29, 1994, p. 1.

[157] Ibid.

[158] Ibid.

[159] “Ferrer: Mayor’s Budget Flubs On Key Investment,” Ethnic NewsWatch, vol. 42, no. 5 (May 10, 2000), p. 10.