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Report: Civilian Review of Policing: A Case Study (1993)

NYCLU - Civilian Review of Policing - Acase Study Report-1

The defining moment in the movement to create civilian oversight of the police department is often a violent confrontation: A police officer attacks or shoots. Justification appears absent. A civilian dies. There is widespread public outcry: Who is policing the police? After the violence quiets in the streets, a political “street fight” begins as politicians and community members attempt to negotiate the terms of greater oversight of the police. This report, released in January 1993, investigates the creation and administration of seven civilian review agencies throughout the United States. It describes the history, politics, structure, and operations of several different civilian review models. Research for this report coincided with the movement to create an independent, all-civilian review agency in New York City. A defining moment in that campaign occurred on September 16, 1992, the day before the City Council was to begin hearings on the issue. On that morning, thousands of off-duty police officers rallied at City Hall to protest the legislative proposal to establish an all-civilian review agency. Agitated police officers stormed city Hall. They stopped traffic in the streets, taunting drivers and passengers. In a number of instances the police officers’ invective was racially charged. On the day of the police protest, the civilian review charter amendment was thought to be at least six votes short of the 26 needed to pass. Three months later, after four days of heated testimony before the council’s public safety committee, the City Council passed a charter amendment that conformed closely to the original proposal in most major respects.

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