With the rise of the concern about the behavior of the law enforcement officers, two issues have emerged which have called for the need of both a vigilant Civilian Review Board and ethical oversight. Banks, (2004) notes that, in this emerging relationship, the Civilian Review Board is responsible for investigating and reviewing the complaints raised by civilians and thereafter giving their recommendations to the chief of police which is closely related to ethical oversight that ensures that action are taken against the officers who fail to adhere to cords of conduct by failing to ensure high ethical standards. This paper endeavors to give a critical response on the relationship Civilian Review Board and ethical oversight in the criminal justice profession.

A Brief about Civilian Review Board

According to Banks (2004), there are a number of ways in which civilian oversights can be classified. He however noted that the most commonly used method is the four tired system which classifies that Civilian Review Boards into Class One to Class Four all which allows the participation of the civilians. Banks (2004) noted that in Class One, the review agencies possess the greatest discretion. Here, the Boards receive complaints and investigate it then review the resulting reports. They then proceed to recommend appropriate disciplinary procedures. On the other hand, In Class Two, the autonomy of the Civilian Review Boards is the complaints by civilians followed by a review of their reports which is done by either the civilians or a committee with both civilians and a number of police officers. It is this committee which then gives a recommendation to a law enforcement authority (Banks, 2004).

For the Class Three type, the civilian complaints are investigated and reviewed by the personnel from the police department. The police department official is then advised by the its internal affairs division on the appropriate. It allows the setting up of the appellate board, partly composed of civilian members, to review any resulting appeal from the decision by the internal division and provides additional recommendations to the department official. For the Class Four, the third party auditors are responsible for analyzing the complaint from the police department, carrying out policy review and suggest procedural changes (Banks, 2004).

The Relationship between Civilian Review Boards to Ethical Oversight

With the myriad of challenges facing the police in the today’s society, Civilian Review Board has remained very significant in ensuring ethics in the criminal justice profession. Miller and Gaines (2011) noted that the law enforcement is increasingly faced with such challenges as mistrust and deterioration of the police/community relations. In addition, the law enforcement professionals have increasingly lost their reputation of being good, hardworking and ethical. The two bodies must therefore come together in ensuring that the civilians are protected as well as restoring the reputation of the law enforcement agencies in the criminal justice profession.

It is clear that in whichever class of the oversight, the functions of the Board are directly related to that of ethical oversight and therefore in many cases it will require the services of an ethical oversight body to ensure efficiency. For example, as noted by Banks (2004), the biggest challenge that faces the Civilian Review Boards is that they do not possess the authority to execute punishments. The Board thus finds it difficult to address the various cases of misconduct by the police. Their work is limited to advisory only. In addition, the Board also normally lacks sufficient staffs and resources which make its effectiveness compromised.

Because the Boards’ in ability to discipline the officers found to be abusive, their effectiveness is increasingly being questioned by the citizens. However, this can be corrected with the intervention of the ethics oversight committees whose role is ensure that each arm of the criminal justice system adhere to the codes of conduct which normally demands high ethical standards. Any ethical oversight committee is charged with ensuring that the law enforcers respect the rights, dignity, values and worth of all people.

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Banks (2004) noted that any ethical oversight committee is also involved in ensuring that the officers who are charged with oversight offenders at correctional facilities ensure ethical standards through being human in the way they supervise and care for the offenders. This way, the ethical oversight bodies complement the work of the Board by ensuring that the officers maintain fairness and consistency while avoiding any form of abuse as they carryout their duties. The ethical oversight also ensures that the police and other criminal justice officers are not influenced by their personal feelings, friendships or animosities in their decisions.

It is therefore in their complementation relationship that the Civilian Review Board can continue in the investigation of the abuse allegations and misconducts reported against the police by the citizens. In this way, the board assists in ethical oversight by ensuring that the process of the review of the police misconduct cases is done in an effective and unbiased manner. Because the Board lacks the authority to go beyond the review of investigations, the ethics oversight therefore comes in to help by developing the necessary mechanisms which allow consistency in disciplinary responses for violations. They also ensure that there are provisions for those who violate the standards and procedures and that actions are also taken against those who ignore such violations. With their constitutional authority, the ethical oversight committees stand a better chance of following up the recommendations made by the Civilian Review Board on various cases they investigate.

Harrison (2000) noted that the ethical oversight also stands a better chance of addressing the various controversial issues surrounding the need for establishments and functions of the Civilian Review Board. One of such controversies is the allegation put forward by Gary Edgell, Superintendent at the state of West Virginia. He saw no need of the Civilian Review Board arguing that all the complaints of the police misconduct could adequately be addressed by the police review board. Additionally, the majority of the officers and police officials also continue to view any kind of external “interference” as unwarranted and intrusive. These controversies have made the city government officials to be soft on police brutality (Harrison, 2000).

According to Banks (2004), the interventions of the ethics oversight bodies can enable the Civilian Review Board help to transform the department of the police in the justices system in three major ways.  First, with its external scrutiny, the independent Civilian Review Board can help identify and restore the standards that had been eroded and thus correct the increasing mistrust between the public and the police. Second, the accumulated reports from the Board if analyzed can be a good source of information to both the public and the leaders on the progress of the police department. This will enable the leaders to intervene at the right time. Third, by routinely subjecting the law enforcement bodies to external scrutiny, the Board can help in breaking the continued hostile attitude by the majority of the officers.


In conclusion, it is therefore clear that Civilian Review Boards’ is closely related to ethical oversight as it helps in ensuring the protection of the citizens against any form of abuse by the police. The Boards also give a chance for the public to participate in the justice system and thus to influence the practices and procedures used by the police. The police officials can therefore utilize their ethical oversight bodies to help empower the Civilian Review Boards to enhance their effectiveness as weapons of eliminating any form of brutality by the police. Finally, there is need to explore other creative ways of addressing the issue of the police misconduct, otherwise it might continue to be a major problem to America’s cities.

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