Police Violence and the Sham Promise of Civilian Oversight

March 4, 2020

Communities besieged by humiliating, oppressive, abusive, and outright brutal treatment at the hands of law enforcement often call for civilian oversight of police misconduct complaints. They reason that public scrutiny is essential to justice, which is invariably denied by the obscure workings of internal affairs and by prosecutors whose cozy relationships with police officers leave them reluctant to press charges, even for the most horrific offenses. What activists fail to realize, however, is that civilian review boards (CRBs) are inherently flawed—and purposefully so—engineered by the political elite to preserve the status quo. On the one hand, CRBs are typically starved of the resources, authority, and autonomy needed to hold officers and departments accountable, while on the other, their veneer of citizen participation acts as a safety valve to release outrage that might otherwise explode into a full-on rebellion. It’s a lose-lose situation for the people, a win-win for the police state. 

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