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11 Am. J. Police 1 (1992)
The Effectiveness of Civilian Review: Observations on Recent Trends and New Issues regarding the Civilian Review of the Police

handle is hein.journals/ajpol11 and id is 337 raw text is: American Journal of Police Vol. XI, No. 4 1992 1

THE EFFECTIVENESS OF CIVILIAN REVIEW:
OBSERVATIONS ON RECENT TRENDS
AND NEW ISSUES REGARDING THE CIVILIAN
REVIEW OF THE POLICE
Samuel Walker
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Vic W. Bumphus
Michigan State University
Civilian review of the police has been a controversial issue in
policing for nearly forty years (Terrill, 1991). The concept is defined
as a procedure under which citizen complaints against police officers
are reviewed at some point by persons who are not sworn officers.
Virtually all proposals for civilian review were defeated in the 1960s,
but in the last few years the concept has spread rapidly among big-city
police departments. By 1992 over two-thirds (68%) of the police de-
partments in the 50 largest cities had some form of civilian review
(Walker & Bumphus, 1991; Walker, 1992). This paper reports the
findings of a survey of the 50 largest cities and discusses the important
new questions raised by this data.
The central issue regarding civilian review has traditionally been
the question of whether it is appropriate for citizens to be involved in
the complaint process. The police have opposed civilian review on the
grounds that the concept intrudes on their professional autonomy, that
persons who are not police officers are not competent to evaluate police
actions, and out of fear of greater scrutiny of police behavior. The
civilian review issue has also been a civil rights issue, pitting the
African-American community against predominantly white police de-
partments.

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