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Greensboro looks to learn from nationwide study on police review boards

If you’ve been following the tensions between the Greensboro Police Department, the community and the police complaint review board, you should read Susan Ladd’s latest column.

The columnist for Greensboro’s News & Record looks at a study of citizen boards for police oversight across the country – and what Greensboro and other N.C. cities can learn from it.

From her column:

The [Greensboro] PCRB generally conforms to what the study describes as the review-focused model of oversight boards, which are headed by civilian volunteers, review the quality of police internal affairs investigations, and make recommendations regarding its findings or requests further investigation.

And the PCRB is plagued by some of the weaknesses the study identifies in review models: it has limited authority, few organizational resources and is less independent than other forms of oversight. Because review boards focus on individual cases, their ability to promote systemic change within a law enforcement agency is limited. St. Petersburg, San Diego and Indianapolis also follow the review model.

Investigation-focused models (San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C.) are generally staffed by paid civilian investigators who conduct independent investigations of complaints against police officers. These boards may even replace the police internal affairs process. They are the most independent, but they also are the most expensive form of oversight and face the strongest resistance from police departments, the study says.

Auditor/monitor-focused boards (Denver, New Orleans, Los Angeles) don’t focus on individual cases but use a paid staff with technical expertise to review police department records, case files and databases to determine patterns in complaints and make suggestions for improvement.

Many boards are organizational hybrids that combine different organizational forms and types of authority. A toolkit on NACOLE’s website includes examples of charter language, oversight policies and procedures, complaint forms, annual reports and other resources.

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