Decision Making Authority
It is crucially important that our system of police oversight, including the Citizens Review Board process, convey a sense of accountability. Our current system is not set up in a way to do this. Charlotte’s Citizens Review Board reviews appeals from citizens who are dissatisfied with a decision made by the Chief of Police. If a hearing is granted, the Board will thereafter provide a recommendation to the Chief of Police based upon their findings. The Chief then considers the Board’s recommendation when deciding whether he will overturn his own original decision, before forwarding his final decision to the City Manager. Under this current system, the Chief of Police has the authority to discount the Board’s recommendation before sending his final decision to the City Manager. True accountability, on the other hand, would take this intervening, subsequent decision-making authority out of the Chief’s hands. This is precisely what police oversight systems in other cities do.
There are review board systems throughout the United States, in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit, where citizens make the final decision whether to accept a review board’s recommendation or not. These cities have oversight boards, made up of appointed citizens, with the authority to overturn a police chief’s original decision. In effect, these cities have placed premium value upon the average citizen’s voice in citywide public safety concerns. There are also others, like Virginia Beach, that are much more aligned with Charlotte’s current system, where the City Manager is the final authority. In these systems, there is no subsequent police chief intervention after the review board has made its final recommendation. The decision to overturn a police chief’s original decision lies solely with the City Manager in an unencumbered fashion.
CRB Reform Now has taken a two-fold approach in drafting newly proposed decision-making changes into Charlotte’s Citizens Review Board ordinance. First, we have recognized the value in pure citizen oversight. This is especially necessary because no independent agency oversees Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department internal affairs investigatory matters, unless the department itself requests intervention by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). We have, therefore, drafted a proposal consistent with the review systems found in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, where citizens have the final decision-making authority. Second, we also recognize the value in simply having another governmental agency, independent of the police department, with the ability to make an unencumbered decision on a consistent basis. We have, therefore, also drafted a second proposal consistent with review boards like the one in Virginia Beach, where the City Manager has the final decision-making authority without any police chief intervention.