Standard of Review
Across the country, most police review board ordinances have no defined standard of review. They trust their boards to draw their own conclusions as to whether a citizen’s complaint has merit and, if so, how an involved police officer should be disciplined.
There are some review boards, such as the ones in New York, San Francisco, and Detroit, that adhere to a straight-forward “preponderance of the evidence” standard. These boards are asked to weigh the evidence in front of them and side with whoever’s evidence they considered to carry the greater weight. However, these review boards appear to be the exception to the general rule mentioned above.
No other review board has a standard as high as Charlotte’s Citizens Review Board. Our Board must ask: “whether, by a preponderance of the evidence, the chief of police abused his discretion.” This “abuse of discretion” language forces the Board to go well beyond a simple “preponderance of the evidence” inquiry and requires them to practically accuse the Chief of Police of misconduct before finding in favor of a citizen. Our Board’s “abuse of discretion” standard of review is unprecedented in any other similarly situated review board ordinance across the country. In fact, no other city, within the top 20 most populous cities in the United States, has a review board ordinance even containing the term "abuse of discretion.
CRB Reform Now calls for the same standard as the majority of metropolitan cities in our country, whereby there is no defined standard of review and the review board is allowed discretion in its decision-making process. Our proposed ordinance thereby eliminates a standard of review altogether and trusts the Board to come to their own conclusions as to whether a citizen’s complaint has merit and, if so, how the involved officer should be disciplined.