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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 97880 Find in a Library
Title: Reviewing Citizen's Complaints Against Police (From Police Management Today, P 76-87, 1985, James J Fyfe, ed. - See NCJ-97876)
Author(s): J J Fyfe
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 12
Sponsoring Agency: International City/County Management Assoc
Washington, DC 20002
Sale Source: International City/County Management Assoc
777 North Capitol Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This discussion of civilian complaint boards covers police resistance to the idea, unrealistic expectations of their proponents, and alternative mechanisms to demonstrate police accountability.
Abstract: Police chiefs resist citizen review because it impinges on their authority as administrators, particularly when it is proposed that boards have the power to discipline officers directly. Police officers also resist citizen review on the grounds that they are being singled out from all municipal employees for close scrutiny by people who are not knowledgeable about police work. One alternative might be an ombudsman who reviews complaints against all city employees. Police also question the appropriateness of investigation of professional conduct by those not part of the profession. The police prefer internal review for complaints, but there are conflicts of interest inherent in this process. Civilian review boards are not a panacea for existing police-community problems, because most citizens' allegations cannot be resolved definitely one way or another. Over the long run, the board may be seen as merely another part of the establishment that almost always finds citizens' complaints unsubstantiated. The city government also faces problems in determining how to operate a truly independent review board. It may be preferable to increase or demonstrate police accountability rather than add another item to the city budget. Appropriate mechanisms for receipt, investigation, and review of citizens' complaints against police officers should document incidents, identify patterns of misconduct, identify poor departmental policies and procedures, and demonstrate police credibility and responsiveness. Another way to demonstrate the integrity of the complaint mechanism is to encourage citizens to complain when they feel they have been wronged. If the police chief is not committed to these objectives and does not run the department satisfactorily, he or she should be fired and replaced with someone whose views are more congruent with the community. The article includes 17 footnotes.
Index Term(s): Accountability; Civilian Review Boards; Complaints against police; Police attitudes; Police internal investigations
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