Reforms Suggested On Monitoring Problem Officers

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Concluding a series on police shootings, the Houston Chronicle cites expert recommendations of better ways to monitoring officers and independent reviews of officers who shoot citizens. Possible reforms include:

•Improve tracking of potential problem officers.

Several local departments have early warning systems to monitor officers who face multiple internal affairs investigations or other allegations. These may include computer programs that identify officers and recommend action such as counseling or training. Most of these programs tally allegations for only a set period of time, often 12 months, and are geared toward scrutinizing individual officers, not identifying systemic problems. The Phoenix Police Department uses a program that allows supervisors to look at an officers’ history for up to five years.

•Give citizen review boards adequate resources and investigative authority. Citizen review boards have been created in many cities to review shootings and complaints. Houston’s board has no staff and shares space with the department’s Internal Affairs Division. The board also lacks subpoena power, which activists and former members said hampers inquiries.

•Appoint independent police monitors to initiate reforms.

Police monitors, who are not police officers or employees of the department, have proved useful in helping identify areas for improvement for departments nationwide. The monitors periodically review shootings, citizens’ complaints. and other information and recommend reforms. They have been used in Washington, D.C.; Montgomery County, Md.; Pittsburgh; and other cities.


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