As the climate facing the police changes, the public continues to look for ways to hold police more accountable for their actions. One of these ideas is should we allow the police to police the police. This leads us to allowing others to investigate the police. There are many pros and cons in law enforcement agencies requiring misconduct investigations be conducted by an outside entity. But before we address the pros and cons, we must clearly define “outside entity.” This could be a panel combined with civilians and police, this could be private organization not funded by the taxpayers, or this could be another law enforcement agency.
The pro of a combined panel of civilians and police is this approach would provide the perfect balance for the highest level of transparency primarily benefitting public perception. Another pro would be sure to get the public’s insight on issues valued by the community as a whole without the skewed presupposition of law enforcement officers. One major con would be the civilian’s inability to completely comprehend the nuances of law enforcement and how to take these into account as decisions are made about officers’ actions. Yet another con would be if the panel fell into the hands of those who would wish to take this opportunity to punish agencies for the perceived wrongs by other law enforcement agencies.
There are a number of organizations being created across the nation that claims to hold police accountable. The initial problem is vetting these organizations to ensure their true motive is pure in that they only wish to improve upon the police and not use the platform for some type of political or social justice agenda. These groups also evolve quickly, so a group that was found to have a righteous approach to the policing issues could soon fall into the hands of those who do not value true accountability in agencies. The other cons to this type of approach are similar to any system which allows for civilians to chair groups without a law enforcement background. This would sew distrust into the system by the police, not knowing if their perspective would be considered. This could be catastrophic to the morale and further the safety of officers across the nation.
The final approach to be considered in this topic is other law enforcement agencies investigating other law enforcement agencies. This would put at ease many of the concerns the police would have by the prior two options. The police would be more likely to have their actions fully examined by another agency who likely would understand the nuances faced by police today. However, the police policing the police gives way to this being considered a con by many outside of law enforcement. Although this approach would have its downside with the public, this could be overcome with some intentional action by agency heads.
Most issues today could be resolved fairly effectively and the solution has been talked about since the dawn of time. Agencies who take on the last approach or continue investigating their own officers must do a better job of communicating. Leaders must communicate the expectations they have for their officers’ actions and behavior. How these actions will be investigated and the consequences should be known to everyone and be kept at the forefront of staff members’ minds. Additionally, leaders should quickly and with full transparency communicate to the public when an officer’s actions has caused a deterioration of public trust.