Let’s form a review board

It would have the ability to oversee internal investigations into police misconduct

If there’s anything that an incident like the recent shooting of Andrew Thomas by Paradise Police Officer Patrick Feaster teaches us, it’s that transparency is key. The fact that video and audio from the scene has been made available to the media and public is a step in the right direction. But we need more.

This paper has in the past called for outside review of officer-involved shootings to eliminate the chances of bias. But we’d like that idea to be taken a step further by including citizens in the process.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, communities across the nation have adopted such citizen review boards, with varying degrees of responsibility and reach. In Chico, for example, the Police Community Advisory Board exists to bridge a gap between police and the community and has the ability to make recommendations to the chief. Other models range from review power over law enforcement’s internal investigations to investigative power, with the ability to conduct independent investigations.

Considering the high cost of hiring investigators, we suggest a county citizen review board, which would have the authority to review investigations into law enforcement misconduct in the county and cities it envelops. A DOJ report on such boards found that: “Many individuals and groups believe that citizen oversight, despite its serious limitations, can have important benefits.” Among them? Feeling validated. Satisfaction at being heard and contributing to holding officers accountable. Improving the relationship between the community and law enforcement. And better internal investigations by police departments.

In this time of distrust of police officers across the country, citizens need to be heard. In this county, nearly every police shooting we’ve seen in the past 10 years has been deemed “justified,” despite some seriously questionable circumstances and no outside review. Transparency must rule. So, Butte County supervisors and citizens, we call on you to form a review board. It’s time to get involved.