In the most recent issue of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement’s quarterly publication, the Review, our Clinic was featured! Clinic alumni Isabel Carson and Celia Olson wrote an article with Professor Jason Huber for the Review that highlighted our Clinic’s efforts on the Citizens Review Board (“CRB”) project. The CRB was established to bridge community-police relations here in Charlotte, and our Clinic has worked diligently over the years to create transparency within the CRB. We have had so much success with this project here in our community and continue to advocate for transparency across North Carolina.
Recently, Charlotte’s Citizen’s Review Board (CRB) has been the subject of scrutiny over its 78-0 record, having never sided with a citizen complaining of police misconduct. The bleak statistics surrounding the CRB lead the Civil Rights Clinic to take an in-depth look at the structural issues within the ordinance creating the CRB.
As part of an on-going three year project, the Civil Rights Clinic recently compiled information about the civilian oversight of police in cities across the country—what authority the boards’ had to conduct investigations, the board structure, the accessibility of the information, and the standard of review for alleged police conduct. Additionally, the Clinic looked at CRB meeting minutes, as well as contacted former board members and complainants about the process. After reviewing the data, the Clinic released a report with recommendations for changes to Charlotte’s CRB as well as a model ordinance. The report, authored by Clinic member Isabel Carson, with contributing research from Clinic members Lindsey Engels, Katie Webb, and Daniel Melo, proposed changes to the standard of review, the availability of information on an independently maintained website, independent investigatory power, and the necessity of building trust between the police and the community they serve through transparency. The Clinic proposed four primary changes, outlined below in an excerpt from the report:
“Drawing on the current structure of Charlotte’s municipal accountability scheme, Part III identifies the inconsistencies and weaknesses within the Citizens Review Board, and suggests four primary changes: 1)lowering the pre-hearing standard from preponderance of the evidence to probable cause; 2)shifting the focus of the standard of review from abuse of discretion to whether actual misconduct occurred;3)providing independent investigatory, subpoena, and audit powers to the Citizens Review Board; and 4)establishing stronger lines of communication and accessibility between the city and its residents.”
The Clinic recently met with the task force charged with gathering community input for recommendations to bring back to Charlotte’s City Council as part of the stakeholder process, and has also spoken to Charlotte’s ACLU chapter on the issue.
If you would like to read the full report click CRB Report.
You can also visit CRB Reform Now for more information and ways to get involved in reforming Charlotte’s CRB.