Police unions are funding ballot initiatives and placing allies on oversight boards to undermine civilian monitoring of alleged misconduct, according to the Marshall Project.
Law enforcement groups are often resistant to civilian oversight and contend that police are more suited to judge misconduct, said the Jan. 21 report titled How Police Unions Try to Tilt the Scales on Oversight Boards.
As to civilian oversight, “It would be akin to putting a plumber in charge of the investigation of airplane crashes,” said Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, in a 2021 Washington Post article.
Political action is one method police and their unions use to resist accountability from civilian oversight, the story said.
“It can lull people into thinking there is some level of accountability when there isn’t,” said Abigail Cerra, former chairwoman of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Committee.
There are about 200 oversight agencies in the U.S. and their powers range from advisory to having the power to collect records during investigations and influence discipline, according to the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.
Police unions want oversight boards to play a more passive role or they want their supporters to occupy board seats to affect the process, the article said.
Debates concerning the eligibility of family members of law enforcement seeking to serve on boards are common, the article said.
Some anti-police activists say such boards work “against deeper change,” according to the article.
“Without any such check or oversight, people like Derek Chauvin are allowed to abuse their position with impunity,” said Cerra, who quit her board position last spring over the diluted oversight process. Chauvin was the officer convicted in the murder of George Floyd.