Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement

The issue of trustful relationships and accountability between police and people is questioned over the last years. Many studies are devoted to raising the efficiency of police actions, for instance, the development of its oversight actions and improving its liability. At the same time, a system that is aiming to review and elaborate on police officer behavior has been created. This mechanism is called civilian review, also known as “civilian oversight, external review and citizen review boards”. The essence of this system is that ordinary citizens are used for controlling police’s worker’s behavior.

It becomes possible because citizens are able to check and monitor “complaint investigations conducted by police internal affairs investigators”. In other words, civilians are given an opportunity to carry out independent investigations of declarations of offenses against acting officers. Additively, a civilian overview can be conducted by empowering review and commenting on police actions and policies. It is important to look through both actions of police and civilians to understand the difference and their possible cooperation.

Concerning internal affairs, it refers to the department of law enforcement, which explores cases of inappropriate behavior and law violation that are assigned to police workers. This is a tool that governs itself and is limited by police self-rule. The internal affairs department was created as a mechanism for self-analysis in fighting against corruption and malfeasance. In addition, one of their goals is to “improve the delivery of police services”. Functions of this self-governing department are, for example, to accept complaints concerning officer misconduct at any time from any person, to investigate all applications against their officers, to create written reports and to document complaints.

The difference of the internal affairs department and the civilian review is in the representatives of both mechanisms. The members of the internal affairs are police authorized officers, while the civilian oversight is led by ordinary people or retired policemen, acting independently from the court or other governmental organs. These two agencies are extremely important from the point of view of countries’ safety.

However, there were a disturbing number of cases of police officers’ misconduct. They were considered to act in a favor of their colleagues, ignoring some appeals and complaints. This chain of incidents led to undermining citizens’ confidence in the police’s legitimacy, and citizens tend to distrust the constabulary. Therefore, for police officers, it is necessary to be able to control themselves in order to establish trustful relationships with the citizens. Sometimes ordinary inhabitants have to wait for the answer of law enforcement organs for a long time, and it becomes one more reason for the further establishment of the citizen review department. On the contrary, cases of unreasonable accusations from the side of citizens are not excluded. However, citizen overview is generally perceived to be more open to people’s concerns.

To provide proper cooperation between these two departments, it might be reasonable to appoint an acting police officer, which may connect the civilian oversight and internal affairs. It can be helpful, as this police member will not belong to any of the departments, but simply control the actions of each of these agencies. He or she should check if complaints of both sides are appropriate and liable, and to monitor if the work is going well. The second solution is a simple improvement of work for both agencies. It could be feasible to impose penalties for cases of misconduct and complaints’ of mistreatment for officers, as well as for incidents of illegitimate allegations for the members of citizen overview, for provision of security and peace.

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