Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cop-Proof Citizen Review Board Part 5

Seeking Members

Requirements for a Citizen Review Board member as covered here are---

Be a resident of a few years, and of voting age
Know the city, streets, neighborhoods, businesses, etc
Understand the current PD is not what we originally created
Know that cops will be what you let them be, good or bad
Demand the PD you want, not the one you are given
Bring varietal backgrounds and concerns to the table
Be prepared to hire, fire, and get your hands dirty
Do it for free

The successful and necessary Citizen Review Board is one that sculpts a police department according to what the people of the city both want and expect in return for their tax money. Any citizen oversight panel is not an attempt to please the police union or even the PD itself. The following guidelines are meant to help review board members define and execute their own plan in the name of the townspeople. A police department that shares their views on what a cop should be, their city’s needs, and how the PD can deliver those needs, is the only acceptable end result. And remember the mantra: “Do it for free”.

Residency, Record and Relationship
Members must be residents of the town they serve and dedicated to the law enforcement needs of their town. Members must be of voting age and residents of their city long enough to know the general layout of the streets, neighborhoods, business districts, residential areas, roads, bridges and back alleys. Basically, a visual understanding of the differing parts of town.

Members cannot have a personal axe to grind with the police department. No arrest record, no trouble involving police encounters with themselves or family. Also, there cannot be any employment on the part of members or family in any local, state or federal law enforcement agencies. That keeps us all on the same page. The honesty we expect is the honesty we exhibit. No agendas brought, no agendas tolerated.

Members must accurately understand the depth of authority they are giving police, and the potential of that authority when abused. Members understand that if cops abuse anybody, they will abuse everybody but their own. This realization is what clarifies and necessitates the oversight control a Civilian Review Board represents.

Members need not care about money paid to them for their service, because they won’t get any. Expecting a paycheck is the biggest roadblock to success any review board will ever encounter, and getting a paycheck is the weakest link in the review board’s chain of strength. Police union opposition to any oversight will always quote the payroll when the budget is short, and compare it to the other needs facing the city. It is an old and frequently used trick. However, when the oversight payroll is $0, there is no argument.

Members, come to the meetings! The best organized citizen effort will fail if they do not have the backing of the public, and the best way to have the public turn on a board is if they never meet, or worse, if there is a meeting and no members show up. When a member becomes an active voice in the CRB, show up and use it. Find members that will meet once or twice a week. If your PD is not to your liking, there will be plenty of things to do and subjects to discuss twice a week, believe me.

Members must stay in touch with each other. All members must have access to a computer with a dedicated email box for citizen review business and internet connection. A phone would be good, too.

A collection of citizens from a variety of professions, incomes and ages will best serve the community. Opposition to this viewpoint will claim cops have a unique and specialized ownership of the knowledge in police work that others could never understand. Not so. Police are intended to be whatever we the people want them to be. A cop who claims any superiority to the citizen is not cop material. He doesn’t get the job description.

Any citizen who believes their portion of the community is not represented should provide representation with their personal input. All members need to invite as many citizens as qualify to meetings. Advertise your meetings and results in local free papers.

Have The Stomach For It
There is always a downside to things and a Citizen Review Board will be no different.
Be prepared. The personality types that need to be retrained after a lifetime of misdirection will not be easy to work with. The public who wants a CRB does so because their PDs have terribly and violently betrayed them, and that PD will not go quietly. Strength in your mind and soul will be challenged, because assumed authority hates to be challenged. Within their power lies their fatal flaw, however. Be ready to exploit that flaw. Prepare to ask tough questions and demand complete, honest answers from beat cops as well as the Chief. Prepare to suspend or fire if only a small doubt remains. Prepare for the worst, because at first, it will be the worst. The police department is currently a mess, one that is many years deep, and the initial cleanup won’t be pretty.

These guidelines will get members to the table, in a seat, and their minds on the same page. Next comes individual training.

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