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Citizen oversight involves the monitoring and evaluation of law enforcement conduct by individuals who are not sworn officers. Bobb explains that citizen oversight in the United States begun in the 1970s. By the year 2000, the citizen oversight program was active in over 100 municipalities. Citizen oversight in policing facilitates the tracking and investigation of police misconduct. Citizen oversight is a move that seeks to make police units accountable for the policies they operate under, the service they provide and the conduct of their staff. An effective civilian oversight ensures that the police work force utilise their power in respect to the law, and the constitutional rights and freedoms of the citizens. Walker explains that there is a review board responsible for the oversight units in law enforcement agencies. The review board consists of professionals who monitor the law enforcement operations (Walker, 2005).
The areas that the oversight agencies focus on include the use of force, personnel issues, and lawsuits against the police departments, policies used in police departments. The special counsel and review commission acts as mediators between the public and the police departments. Citizen oversight agencies process public complains. The internal affairs unit investigates the complaints. The counsel reviews the internal affairs investigations if they find the public complaints are justified the counsel makes recommendations that are incorporated into the policies of law enforcement agencies. According to walker and Andreaz, the recommendations are essential in the transformation of policies in police units. Citizen oversight encourages law enforcement agencies to foster a culture of openness and responsiveness. The special counsel and review commission responsible for citizen oversight publish reports that allows member of the public and media access to information regarding public complaints and the effort made by law enforcement agencies to improve the situation (Walker, 2005).
Walker (2005) explains that citizen oversight have time and again failed to achieve their goals. This failure stems from factors such as poor planning, lack of political and financial support. According to walker, the resistance from police departments is a key obstacle in the successful implementation of the citizen oversight goals. Walker argues that citizen oversight agencies desire to have a working relationship with law enforcement agencies and at the same time, they value their independence and objectivity. The success of citizen oversight agencies requires finding solutions for financial constraints and resistance from police departments. It is important for police administrators to come up with ways to foster a working relationship with citizen oversight agencies. This move will facilitate the establishment of a valuable accountability system. Law enforcement units that support the role of citizen oversight agencies benefit by gaining the publicâ€™s confidence (Walker, 2005).
The problems that citizen oversight agencies encounter while implementing their goals include financial constraints, unrealistic expectation set by oversight agencies, the poor planning makes it hard for oversight agencies to accomplish their goals. A lack of cooperation between oversight agencies and police departments contributes to an increased deterioration of the publicâ€™s trust in their police force. Citizen oversight agencies adopt an impartial work attitude where they focus in gathering of neutral facts. It is due to these reasons that agency investigators fail to embrace the outrage and perspective of citizen complaints (Livingston, 2004). Walker describes that citizen oversight agencies focus on delivering the expectations of the members of the public and at the same time assist police departments fight the issue of misconduct. However, citizen oversight agencies are encouraged to avoid offering a judgement on the allegations. On the other hand, there are police department that fail to cooperate with oversight agencies their reason being that a person who is not a police officer does not understand the demands on an officer. Walker explains that a positive response from citizen oversight agencies reflects a reliable leadership in the police department. A good leadership in the police force helps in restoring the publicâ€™s trust in police force agencies. Walker (2004) states that oversight agencies tend to serve multiple constituencies. Walker explains multiple demands and the pressure on oversight agencies tends to affects the performance of the agencies.
Citizen oversight serves as a police management tool according to Clarke civilian oversights agencies monitor issues relating to police misconduct, they investigate on scandal and crises in police departments (Clarke, 2009). Civilian oversight is an accountability measure where citizens are responsible for overseeing police accountability mechanisms. This program focuses in holding police officers responsible for their actions. Civilian oversight personnel have access to internal police processes where they hold police departments accountable for its actions, priorities and policies. Clarke explains that Citizen oversight agencies are responsible for citizen complaint processes where they inform the public about the complain review system. The citizen oversight agencies review the complain investigation procedures they are responsible for screening public complains to determine whether there is need for an investigation (Clarke, 2009).
The citizen oversight agencies have the power to make recommendations to the police departments if they disagree or find fault in the policies or operations in police units. The citizen oversight agencies have the power to organize for hearings regarding the citizen complaints. The citizen oversight agencies are responsible for monitoring that police maintain their conduct in the event of an investigation on citizen complaints. The citizen oversight agencies ensure that police perform their duties while abiding to the laws. They oversee that the conducts of police does not involve the misuse of power such as using excess force on members of the public, taking bribes from members of public, or getting involved in shady dealings with criminal groups.
Civilian oversight agencies serve as warning devices when they investigate allegations against police officers. the investigations on police misconduct is important since it serves to uncover the unethical behaviours in police departments, citizen oversight investigators are responsible for identifying policies and procedures that support unethical behaviours in police departments. Citizen oversight agencies assist police departments by making recommendations to policies and procedures that will help the department adopt a culture that promotes ethical behaviour in police operations. Oversight agencies are responsible for identifying police conducts that violate human rights and freedom. Documentation of these conducts enables police departments study the conducts and come up with ways of preventing police officers from adopting such conducts. Citizen oversight reviews benefits the public by making the complaint process transparent, accessible and legitimate (Livingston, 2004).
Hickman (2006) explains that sustain rate determines whether the amount of supporting evidence available for an allegations justifies the disciplinary action against an officer. Sustain rates is used to measure police accountability. A higher sustain rate demands a disciplinary action be taken against an officer. A high sustain rate enables oversight agencies to support the complaints filed by members of the public. The high sustain rates enables oversight agencies to ensure that police commissioners discipline the police officers for their misconduct. Patrick (2010) states that the low sustain rates may be a result of police commissioners ignoring the misconduct complaints filed by members of the public. According to Patrick, low sustained rates could mean lack of witnesses or evidence for the filed complains. On the other hand, low sustained rates could mean police officers were performing well or police processes were inaccessible to oversight citizens. A lack of evidence or low complains may be a result of detectives discouraging the filing of complaints. In some cases, the police officers may tamper with internal investigations or perform a partial investigation in order to report a low sustained rate on public complaints. Patrick explains that there are cases where police departments utilised different definitions and dispositions to protect their officers from facing disciplinary actions for their misconduct (Patrick, 2010).
Citizen oversight is important in ensuring police abide by the law. It is important for citizen review agencies to consider issues such as review models. According to Walker, the auditor model is better than the review board model. An auditor model examines police misconduct and tries to find the causes of such misconducts. Auditors make recommendations that target to reform the policies and procedures in law enforcement agencies. The recommendations are in relation to the complaints and allegations raised by members of the public. The success of the review board relies on community support, political support and organisational support. Livingston states that the community is a key benefactor in complaint review; therefore, the community involvement in citizen oversight is critical. Civilian oversight is set to improve communication between police and the public (Livingston, 2004).
Police leadership is an issue that affects the citizen oversight operations either negatively or positively. Good leaders can utilise the recommendation reports from complain investigations to improve the performance and rectify the unethical behaviours in law enforcement departments. Oversight reports from review boards can recommend systems that that will ensure the prevention of future problems. Law enforcement administrators need to encourage law enforcement agencies to cooperate with oversight agencies. This cooperation will help to improve the public trust on law enforcement agencies. Community activists play a major role in encouraging the activities of oversight agencies. According to Walker, the support from human right groups assists in ensuring the successful establishment of citizen oversight agencies in police departments (Walker, 2005).
The measure of police accountability depends on an external body that monitors their performance. It is evident that citizen oversight agencies have encouraged positive transformation in law enforcement units. For instance, citizen oversight agencies have promoted transparency in law enforcement departments. Transparency allows members of the public to file their complaints and monitor the investigation procedures. Citizen oversight has discouraged unethical behaviours among officers such as utilisation of excessive force, and participation in corrupt dealings. We have seen that some of the challenges facing citizen oversight agencies are lack of financial support, lack of political support, poor planning and rebellion from law enforcement departments. Citizen oversight agencies play a major role by offering recommendations that are utilised in the improvement of policies and procedures utilised in law enforcement departments. Successful implementation of citizen oversight agencies goals increases the public trust on law enforcement agencies.