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Expanding Civilian Oversight

The expert testimony, research, scholarship, and lived experience collected by the Commission revealed the following:

  • In the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown, public perception of police legitimacy and effectiveness and trust in procedural justice have decreased as compared to before the shooting. Public estimates of frequency of misconduct have gone up (Kochel, 2015).
  • According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, “A civilian review board is an entity external to the police department’s internal affairs, and consists of citizens from outside the department, appointed by the mayor or other senior government officials. A civilian review board is generally charged with the duty of reviewing complaints and making recommendations as to disciplinary action after the police department has completed its own investigation and made a disciplinary recommendation” (West Virginia Advisory Committee to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 2004).
  • Civilian review of complaints regarding police misconduct empowers citizens to participate in the oversight of decisions by officers and agencies (Walker, 2001).
  • Civilian review boards have been growing in popularity for the past several decades in large part due to the community policing movement and its emphasis on police accountability (Finn, 2001). An integral part of this movement is the development of police-community partnerships and an enhanced role for the public (Bayley, 1994; 1996; Grinc, 1994; Kerley and Benson, 2000; Maguire and Mastrofski, 2000).
  • The National Institute of Justice has observed:“[T]here is no single model of citizen oversight. However, most procedures have features that fall into one of four types of oversight systems:
    • Type 1:Citizens investigate allegations of police misconduct and recommend findings to the chief or sheriff.
    • Type 2:Police officers investigate allegations and develop findings; citizens review and recommend that the chief or sheriff approve or reject the findings.
    • Type 3:Complainants may appeal findings established by the police or sheriff’s department to citizens, who review them and then recommend their own findings to the chief or sheriff.
    • Type 4:An auditor investigates the process by which the police or sheriff’s department accepts and investigates complaints and reports on the thoroughness and fairness of the process to the department and the public” (Finn, 2001).
  • When measured in 2002, about one in five large municipal police departments had a civilian review board of some variety (Hickman, 2006).
  • In 2002, those departments with a review board received more force complaints that those without a review board (11.09 complaints vs. 6.6 complaints per 100 officers) (Hickman, 2006).
  • Citizen oversight can be obtained at varying costs depending largely upon the purview the oversight boards are given, which determines the amount of support they need (Finn, 2001).

These findings prompted the Commission to draft several calls to action for the expansion of civilian oversight of law enforcement.

To that end, the Commission issues the calls to action below.

Take Action

FTF Co-Chairs and Community Partners Call for Swift Policy Action

Residents Call for Policy Change, Regional Leaders Must Rise to the Challenge Forward Through Ferguson co-chairs, Rebeccah Bennett and Zachary Boyers, and 30 community partners call on policy and decision makers to deliver swift action on Ferguson Commission Calls to Action.  Read the full statement on Medium, or download a pdf here. “Unfortunately, we’ve been…

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Opportunity for a New Approach to Public Safety in St. Louis

An open letter to Mayor Lyda Krewson from Rebeccah Bennett and Zachary Boyers, Co-chairs of Forward Through Ferguson, on the public safety opportunity in front of our region. Click here to download a pdf of the open letter. Mayor Krewson, The retirement of Police Chief Sam Dotson represents a new day for public safety in St. Louis….

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Suggested Reading List

Finn, P. (2001). Citizen review of police:Approaches and implementation. National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from:


  1. Bayley, D.H. (1994). Police for the future, Oxford University Press,:New York, NY.
  2. Finn, P. (2001). Citizen review of police:Approaches and implementation. National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from:
  3. Grinc, R.M. (1994). Angels in marble:problems in stimulating community involvement in community policing. Crime and Delinquency,.Vol. 40 (3), pp. 437-68.
  4. Hickman, M. (2006). Citizen complaints about police use of force. Department of Justice. Retrieved from:
  5. Kerley, K.R. and Benson, M.L. (2000), “Does community-oriented policing help build stronger communities?”, Police Quarterly, Vol. 3 (1), pp. 46-69. Retrieved from:
  6. Kochel, T. (2015). Assessing the initial impact of the Michael Brown shooting and police and public responses to it on St. Louis County residents’ views about police. OpenSIUC. Retrieved from:
  7. Maguire, E.R. & Mastrofski, S.D. (2000). Patterns of community policing in the United States. Police Quarterly. Vol. 3 .( 1,) pp. 4-45. Retrieved from:
  8. Walker, S.L. (2001), Police accountability:The role of citizen oversight, Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.
  9. West Virginia Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Right. Coping with police misconduct in West Virginia:Citizen involvement in officer disciplinary procedures. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Retrieved from: