Police misconduct is a persistent and systemic problem. If left unchecked, it will gravely damage the legitimacy of government authority and the willingness of citizens to comply with the law. To address this problem, many municipal governments have created review boards that empower citizens to determine the outcomes of complaints filed against police officers. However, in many cases, these entities have become paper tigers. We cannot allow this to happen in Cedar Rapids.
If a civilian review board is to be successful in Cedar Rapids, there must be several conditions to make it robust. First, the board must be allotted a staff of investigators and legal professionals that ensures that justice is not miscarried. Second, it is imperative that the body is given subpoena power so that its investigative power is not reduced to commenting on an already completed internal investigation. Third, it should be allowed to review complaints submitted directly to the board, but more importantly, it should be given all initial reports that are received by the department so that there can be no suppression. Fourth, for the sake of transparency, all proceedings of the board should be open to the public. Fifth, the organization should not be precluded from rendering a decision if there is litigation related to misconduct. Otherwise, this body will be sidelined because, based on precedent, it could take years before a settlement or a final judgment is reached.
The city of Cedar Rapids must lead by example to raise public confidence.