When a Cincinnati police officer violates policy. including possibly using excessive force, the officer’s proposed punishment is judged by a panel of fellow officers. That system, known as “peer review” is “essentially broke,” says the Cincinnati Police Department’s second-ranking officer, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. That broken peer review system has caused “order and discipline” issues within the force, according to emails obtained by the Enquirer under a public records request. The system is important because it allows a panel of officers to review and possibly reduce or reverse discipline against fellow officers for violations of policy, an issue roiling the nation.
Lt. Col. David Bailey, the department’s executive assistant chief, said the system “has been working some better” since he wrote the email in April saying it was broken, but that major problems still remain. “I’m not advocating throwing it all out, but we need to get back to what it was intended to do and not allowing internal or external politics to enter into it,” Bailey said. Under the city’s contract with police, the department’s peer review system allows a panel of three trained officers or sergeants (depending on the case) to determine whether police supervisors had “just cause” to impose the discipline they did. The peer review system started in 1995, and since 2005, peer review panels were called in for 234 cases. Of those, the original discipline was upheld only 32 percent of the time, while 46 percent of penalties were reduced and 22 percent were completely reversed.