Letters to the Editor

Review board needs community support

When it comes to the structural design of a civilian review board, the desire for professionalism and expertise is understandable. Nonetheless, this body would not be an organ of the courts, so there should not be an expectation that the board members are experts on legal casework, police discretion or the circumstances that influence officer behavior. Indeed, this would negate the purpose of the organization.

Furthermore, it is not at all evident review boards that consist primarily of colleagues of the agency being scrutinized are effective at monitoring or disciplining members of their profession. One example would be medical review boards, which according to Alan Levine et al., have failed to sanction the majority of physicians with one or more clinical privilege actions. The organizational bias of the civilian review boards in some municipalities is considerably worse. In the city of Chicago, for instance, only 3 percent of the complaints from Black citizens were sustained. What is more, lay jurors already factually resolve cases of misconduct in civil and criminal trials, which, as we know, is a key element of the American justice system.

If a civilian review board is to function judiciously, it will need a supervisor that is held in very high esteem and who is well-versed on police department policies and procedures so there is not a miscarriage of justice. More importantly, it must have a board that has the confidence of the community. For Cedar Rapids, this would be members of the Advocates for Social Justice.

Scott Roland

Cedar Rapids

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