Criminal Justice

Citizen Oversight


It is an interesting dimension of modern culture that, as citizens consistently regard the police as a protective mainstay in a society increasingly prone to violence, those same citizens are making greater efforts to “police” these protectors.  There can be no rational disputing that the police, as with any other mode of employment, is subject to incompetence, internal abuses, or inappropriate hiring.  What renders law enforcement different is the inescapable fact that these civic employees wield significant authority, carry weapons, and are responsible for bringing order to the most disruptive and/or dangerous circumstances occurring within the society.  This being the case, growing numbers of citizens are organizing to oversee police activity in their communities, and specifically address complaints made regarding police conduct.   As will be examined in the following, these are organizations not entirely appreciated by the police, nor uniformly effective in achieving their goals.  Citizen oversight, while certainly a reasonable and commendable strategy designed to expand police management within the community, remains a practice both controversial and of uncertain benefit. Only the emphasis on third party supervision, as will be seen, may render the process the valuable instrument it is designed to be.