This has been a busy week for Eureka’s Police Chief, cooking the books on Eureka crime statistics; meanwhile the Eureka Police Department held their private so called “Community Shooting Review Board”, to look into whether EPD followed policies during the incident (killing of Tommy McClain), a little piece of the discussion has kept being kicked in the corner. This part of the discussion is about a “Civilian Review Board” in Eureka.
Did you feel that? That was the chill that the Eureka Police Chief obviously felt when he read that term; “Civilian Review Board”.
Police Chief Andy Mills came up as an officer in an agency that fought tooth and nail to prevent any such civilian oversight. From an LA Times article in 1987:
But most experts agree on one point–civilian review boards are not the complete failure being portrayed by San Diego police. “I would say that there seems to be a growing awareness that there is a real worth in having the community feel that it has some say in how police decisions are made,” said Wesley Pomeroy, executive director of the Metropolitan Dade County Independent Review Panel in Miami and former Berkeley chief of police.
During the formative years of the Chiefs police career, his union fought hard to not have a Civilian Review Board. They eventually lost. Is this the reason for his fear and loathing of civilian oversight? Or, is it the all too common fear of losing some of your power. With a Review Board that can recommend discipline, many Chiefs feel that their power is getting taken away. For instance, many agencies treat officers differently, depending on who they know or who they have supported. Leaving the power of discipline solely at a Chiefs discretion is an easy way to make sure that fairness and standards aren’t maintained in a department.
Example: If Officer ‘A’ gets a complaint about rudeness, the Chief might say, “Officer A, you messed up on this one. But it’s handled. Thanks for your support at the union meeting.” However, when Officer ‘B’, who has been a constant complainer about unfair practices gets a rudeness complaint, the conversation may be a little different. “Officer B, I know how you always talk about following fair standards. Well, I’m following the standards and you’re getting a 5 day suspension”.
Whatever the reasons, apparently Eureka’s Chief is very nervous about the possibility of civilian oversight. Too bad….you can’t always stop forward progress.