Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Case for Civilian Review Boards

The King County (Washington) Sheriff's Office (KCSO) is an example of what happens when a law enforcement agency is not subjected to close and compulsory outside scrutiny. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer series entitled Conduct Unbecoming reveals the consequences of the failure or unwillingness of former Sheriff Dave Reichert, current Sheriff Sue Rahr, and their respective command staffs to consistently and effectively discipline or dismiss employees who engage in repeated intentional misconduct.

An often heard objection from sworn law enforcement officers to what they consider to be unnecessary oversight from "civilians" is that the civilians won't be objective. My experience is that these officers don't want objectivity; they want empathy. They prefer to be judged by someone who has shared the same experiences they have. If that's a valid concern, then none of us should complain about bad lawyers who are judged by lawyers on state bar associations and about doctors judged by doctors on state medical boards, right? Self-policing in any occupation should work, but it will work better if it includes objective input from those outside the occupation.


Anonymous Tad Leach said...

I too have a concern about Civilian Review Boards. Too often they become political and packed with people who have an agenda - one way or another. In the Department where I was Chief, I initiated a policy that a complaint against an officer that was criminal in nature was still investigated by our department, but all information from the initial complaint through the entire investigation was also forwarded to the Public Integrity Unit of the Cook County (Chicago, IL) States Attorney's Office. They had their own professional investigators and could run a concurrent investigation if they deemed necessary. This had the advantage of being a check and balance to eliminate any question of 'whitewashing', but was done by an agency with no political motivation and with the experience and expertise to review the complaint and investigation. It worked very well, as it provided a professional and objective review, but without the potential for politically motivated bias.

5:17 PM, February 09, 2006  

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