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Civilian panels are only as effective as the people in them




With black ribbons across their badge and holding a gun, police recruits attend their graduation ceremony at LAPD Headquarters where rappers Snoop Dogg and The Game led a peaceful demonstration outside on July 8, 2016 in Los Angeles, California, in what they called an effort to promote unity in the aftermath of the deadly shootings of police officers in Dallas.
 / AFP / Frederic J. BROWN        (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
With black ribbons across their badge and holding a gun, police recruits attend their graduation ceremony at LAPD Headquarters where rappers Snoop Dogg and The Game led a peaceful demonstration outside on July 8, 2016 in Los Angeles, California, in what they called an effort to promote unity in the aftermath of the deadly shootings of police officers in Dallas. / AFP / Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

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Measure C has passed, paving the way for a civilian-only board reviewing police discipline in Los Angeles. But the question is: what’s next?

To find some answers, we can look to the dozens of other cities that have civilian oversight panels. “What this really is, is a 'due process mechanism,'” says Richard Rosenthal, who studies civilian oversight. He says Measure C isn’t really oversight because the panel doesn’t possess any real investigative power.

The panel has the power to change how police chief’s discipline officers. They can tell the chief that punishment is too harsh. But they can’t say that the disciplinary action should be harsher. But, Rosenthal says, that doesn’t mean they’re toothless. 

Rosenthal has a long relationship with police conduct auditing. He served on the unit that investigated officer Rafael Perez, opening up a police corruption case that became known as the Rampart Scandal,  and he was the director of police oversight in Portland, Denver, and British Columbia.

According to Rosenthal, the research shows that most important thing here will be who ends up serving on these panels. “It almost doesn't matter what the background of the person,” says Rosenthal. “It's really who the person is. And what their philosophies are, and morality, and how they approach their basic work.”

"So," he adds.  "It's very difficult to choose these people."

To listen to the entire interview, please click on the blue player above