Civilian Review Boards


Institution Affiliation

Over the years, there has been a need to regulate the activities ofthe law enforcing agencies. This has been necessitated by an increasein irresponsible behaviors that are not in line with the expectedethical standards (Eyre, 2014). To counter the growing concernsregarding the actions of the criminal justice practitioners, varioussolutions have been implemented across the American systems. Theinitiation of civilian review boards, as well as ethical oversightteams, has been some of the steps taken to manage the growing menaceamong the law enforcing officers. The success of the civilian reviewboards depends on the nature of cooperation between the public, theboard itself and the police force (Attard, 2010).

Whenever the public raises concerns about any forms of mistreatmentby the authorities, the civil review boards are tasked withconducting extensive investigations and reviewing the complaintsforwarded by the public (Eyre, 2014). After the completion of theinvestigations, the board forwards its recommendations to the chiefof police. Ethical oversight committee evaluates the activities ofthe public officers and ensures that their operations are in linewith the ethical standards. With the help of the police chiefs, allthe officers that are deemed to have violated the ethical standardswhen charging their official duties are expected to be answerable. Assuch, action is taken against officers that have failed to adhere tothe codes of conducts (Attard, 2010).

The civil review boards and the ethical oversight are aimed atensuring that there is strict adherence to the high ethical standardsattached to their positions as public servants. This paper provides acritical response to the relationship of civilian review boards tothe ethical oversight in the criminal justice profession byintegrating the importance of responsible stewardship in the process(Attard, 2010).

The activities of the civil review boards are aimed at ensuring thatissues that are raised by the public are taken into consideration andthe necessary corrective measures implemented. The classification ofcivilian oversight depends on various factors. However, the mostcommon means of classification is the four –tier system (Attard,2010). The civilian review boards are therefore classified into fourmajor types namely Class One to Class Four. The identity of eachboard is dependent on the participation of the civilians. Based onthe classification, Class One has the highest level of discretion.According to this category, complaints received by the boards areinvestigated and then a review report is provided (Attard, 2010).After that, the necessary disciplinary actions against the violatorsof the ethical standards are recommended. The second class ofclassification does not enjoy the same level of discretion as thefirst one. In Class Two, complaints are received by the civil reviewboard. Thereafter, a team made up of civilians or a committeecomprising of both civilians and the police officers reviews thereports. Following the issuance of the review reports, the committeeis tasked with making recommendations to the law enforcing agencieson the most appropriate course of action to be taken against theofficers that have violated the ethical standards as expected intheir positions (Attard, 2010).

The police department is the sole recipient of civilian complaints inthe Class Three classification. The department also conducts allinvestigations relating to the complaints and the subsequent reviewreports. Once the investigations are complete, Internal Affairs willprovide advice on the most appropriate action to be taken (Finn,2001). One distinct feature of this class is the existence of a bodythat listens to any appeals from the police officers charged. Theappellate board constitutes partly of civilians, and is tasked withlistening to appeals based on the decisions made by Internal Affairs.The last group is known as Class Four. In this case, the process ofanalyzing complaints from the police department and issuing thereview reports is accomplished by third party auditors. Additionally,they are required to conduct investigations and instigate proceduralchanges if necessary (Attard, 2010).

With the changing environmental and political dynamics, the policedepartments are experiencing several changes in their quest todischarge their duties. However, there is need to regulate theactivities of the police and ensure that all actions taken are instrict adherence to the ethical standards and in accordance with thecodes and ethos of operations. The civilian review boards have playeda significant role in this regard (Eyre, 2014). One of their keymandates is the integration of ethics in the criminal justiceprofession. Over the years, the relationship between the lawenforcement agencies and the public has been in the spotlight for thewrong reasons. One such factor has been attributed to thedeteriorating level of trust between the police and the community(Attard, 2010). This has been necessitated by a series of events thathave portrayed the police as irrational and unethical in theadministration of justice. In a bid to change the strainedrelationship between the two primary parties, the civil review boardand the ethical oversight teams joined with the sole purpose ofprotecting the citizens and restoring the soiled reputation of thelaw enforcement agencies (Finn, 2001).

The civil review boards have continued to improve the administrationof justice in the society. Working in tandem with these boards havebeen the ethical oversight teams that have increased the efficiencyin the delivery of service to the demanding public (Eyre, 2014). Onemajor non-functionality of the review boards has been the lack ofsufficient authority to prosecute those implicated in unethicalpractices since they are limited to an advisory role. This haslimited the boards’ efforts to deal with cases of misconducts inthe police force. Another issue faced by the boards has been highlyqualified staff to tackle the daily tasks that are to beaccomplished. Such shortcomings have massively compromised theeffectiveness of the boards (Attard, 2010).

The shortcomings have necessitated the intervention of the ethicsoversight committee. The panel regulates the activities of thecriminal justice practitioners. In this regard, each arm of thejudicial system must adhere to the ethical standards of the criminaljustice system and the codes of conduct which frequently demand highethical standards (Attard, 2010). Furthermore, the ethical oversightcommittee ensures that all officers respect the rights, dignity,values and worth of all members of the society (Finn, 2001).

Another role of the ethical oversight committees is the evaluation ofthe conduct of officers attached to the correctional facilities(Finn, 2001). Despite the fact that such officers come into contactwith offenders at the correctional facilities, they are stillrequired to maintain the high ethical standards and not subject theoffenders to inhumane experiences. The interactions can be in theprocess of supervising and directing the offenders at thecorrectional facilities (Attard, 2010). Therefore, personal feelingsand past interactions with the offender should not influence how thepolice officers and other criminal justice officers relate with theconvicts. The review board, on the other hand, ensures that all casesbrought up by the public about the violation of the code of conductare effectively dealt with (Attard, 2010). The oversight committeewill ensure that the necessary mechanism of prosecution has beendeveloped to complement the monitoring role of the civilian reviewboards (Eyre, 2014). Since the constitution and other legal statuteshave empowered the oversight committees, they can implement therecommendations that have been forwarded by the review boards (Finn,2001).

According to research, the interaction of the civilian review boardsand the ethics oversight committees can culminate in thetransformation of the department of police and other justice systems.To begin with, the review reports provided by the civilian reviewboards can offer reliable information to be used by both the publicand law enforcement agencies. Such information is critical inestablishing the most appropriate mechanisms for intervention by theregulatory authorities. In addition to this, the civilian reviewboard assists in the identification and restorations of standardsthat have been eroded in the past (Finn, 2001). This is important incorrecting the animosity and mistrust that exists between the publicand the police force. Finally, the continuous evaluation of theactivities of the law enforcing officers ensures that they operateaccording to the codes of conducts. As such, they will be expected tointegrating ethical practices in their day-to-day activities (Attard,2010).

The close interaction between the civilian review board and ethicaloversight committees since they ensure that all citizens areprotected from manipulation and abuse by the police (Eyre, 2014).Moreover, the public also gets an opportunity to participate in theadministration of justice and as such, are in a position to influencethe operations of the police to a greater effect. With the levels ofincreased scrutiny on the conducts of the police officers, there is asubsequent amplification in adherence to the ethical standards.


Attard, B. (2010). Oversight of Law Enforcement is Beneficial andNeeded—Both Inside and Out. Pace Law Review, Vol. 30 (5). Retrievedfrom

Eyre, P. (2014). Citizen Review Boards – Helpful? A Distraction?Harmful? Copblock. Retrieved from

Finn, P. (2001). Citizen Review of Police: Approaches andImplementation. National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from