them well.) However, no matter what internal reforms PIIAC adopts, the limitations of its official charter still leave Portland civilians without effective review of their police.

II. A Better System of Police Review

Other cities have civilian review systems that are independent of the police force. The most effective systems have the following features:

     € An appointed board with a team of paid, non-police-affiliated investigators.

     € Complaints received by civilians, not police officers.

     € The power of subpoena vested in the board.

     € Reviews of police policy and training as a regular function of the board.

     € Many complaints handled through mediation.

Such systems are great improvements over Portland's. Civilians are more willing to file complaints. Investigations are independently conducted, inspiring public confidence in the outcome. Civilians are better able to provide feedback to police, achieving Community Policing goals. Police are held accountable for their actions. In the next section, we explain how and why these changes result from the improvements in the system we recommend.

III. The Benefits of Effective Civilian Review

a. Better Government

Our system of government is based on the concept of checks and balances. Nationally, there are three branches of government, independent of one another, each with the power to curtail the activities of the other. On the state and local levels, similar models are used in order to ensure that those who represent the interests of the people do so in accordance with the laws and without abusing the authority they have been granted.

Police officers, like other government employees, are hired and paid by the citizens of a community. Furthermore, law enforcement officers are given the exclusive right in our society to exercise physical force in requiring citizens to comply with the laws and with their commands. Police establish policies which affect everyone in the community. Yet there are few checks within law enforcement to protect the interests and rights of civilians.

A properly conceived civilian review system acts as a check and balance to the police force. A truly independent body which has the power to review police policies as well as the behavior of individual officers is fundamental to

[]Previous page []Next Page
Table of Contents
Return to Copwatch home page