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How Should Police Officer-Involved Shootings Be Investigated?

By • July 25, 2023

How should police officer-involved shootings be investigated?

In some communities there is an internal review process. This scenario is handled as a “critical incident.” There is a Critical Incident Task Force (CITF) made up of multiple police agencies. In other places, there is a citizen’s review of police incidents. In many cities and counties, some combination of both approaches has been put in place.

Here we detail the process in the City of Boise and in Ada County, which uses the internal review. We will also explain and compare that to the citizen review board model.

From the City of Boise’s website,

“The investigation into an officer-involved shooting involves many agencies and reviews. There is a criminal investigation by an outside agency, an internal investigation by BPD’s Office of Internal Affairs (OIA), a training and policy review by BPD Commanders, and an independent investigation by the City of Boise’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA), which is a separate office from BPD and reports directly to the Mayor and Council.”

It goes on to explain the makeup of the Critical Incident Task Force,

“The CITF is made up of qualified detectives from each law enforcement agency in Ada County. CITF participating agencies include the Boise Police Department, Meridian Police Department, Garden City Police Department, Ada County Sheriff’s Office, and Idaho State Police. Detectives from an uninvolved agency are assigned lead on a rotating basis. Detectives from the involved agency still participate but don’t take a lead role in any critical areas. The completed investigation is then sent to a Prosecuting Attorney outside of Ada County for a criminal review of the officers’ actions.”

Following the CITF investigation, a Boise Police Department Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) investigation is conducted. After that, the Office of Police Accountability reviews the investigations by the CITF and OIA. In the case of a Boise Police Department involved incident, City of Boise’s webpage says,

“OPA operates completely independently of BPD and reports directly to the Mayor and Council. Following an OPA review of a critical incident, findings are presented to the Mayor and Boise City Council. The OPA Director may advise city leaders on concerns, areas of improvement, and recommended changes in BPD’s response.”

Many people believe the internal review process is not sufficient for police oversight. Communities can choose to implement a citizens’ review process of police incidents. The National Institute of Justice within the US Department of Justice, in a document from their website entitled Citizen Review of Police: Approaches and Implementation (see the full document below) explains,

“In many communities in the United States, residents participate to some degree in overseeing their local law enforcement agencies. The degree varies. The most active citizen oversight boards investigate allegations of police misconduct and recommend actions to the chief or sheriff. Other citizen boards review the findings of internal police investigations and recommend that the chief or sheriff approve or reject the findings. In still others, an auditor investigates the process by which the police or sheriff’s department accept or investigate complaints and reports to the department and the public on the thoroughness and fairness of the process.”

From the same document, the reported opinions of citizen oversight boards by various involved entities were:

“Many individuals and groups believe that citizen oversight, despite its serious limitations, can have important benefits.

Complainants have reported that they:

-Feel “validated” when the oversight body agrees with their allegations-or when they have an opportunity to be heard by an independent overseer regardless of the outcome.

-Are satisfied at being able to express their concerns in person to the officer.

-Feel they are contributing to holding the department accountable for officers’ behavior.

Police and sheriff’s department administrators have reported that citizen oversight:

-Improves their relationship and image with the community.

-Has strengthened the quality of the department’s internal investigations of alleged officer misconduct and reassured the public that the process is thorough and fair.

-Has made valuable policy and procedure recommendations.

Local elected and appointed officials say an oversight procedure:

-Enables them to demonstrate their concern to eliminate police misconduct.

-Reduces in some cases the number of civil lawsuits (or successful suits) against their cities or counties.”

A rally was held in Boise recently, following the shooting of a young man who was running away from Boise Police Officers. Skip Banach, a retired San Diego police officer, spoke at the rally. His son Jeremy was shot to death in Star in June 2022. Banach says it was an incident of police violence. He told the Idaho Dispatch,

“Police cannot police themselves! They will not cross the thin BLUE line. To do so would ostracise them and place them in danger. Their careers would essentially be over. Other departments would not consider hiring them. The citizens of the Treasure Valley deserve law enforcement accountability, and this can only occur with a Civilian Review Board! I call on Raul Labrador, our State Attorney General, to spearhead this effort – Commission for Accountability, for T.V. L.E.O (Treasure Valley Law Enforcement Officers).

There are budgeting concerns to be considered in the discussion of types of citizen oversight. From the NIJ report, four are explained with reference to the expense of each, with examples of cities using each type:

“-Type 1 oversight systems, in which citizens investigate allegations and recommend findings (Berkeley, Flint, Minneapolis, San Francisco), are the most expensive largely because professional investigators must be hired to conduct the investigations-lay citizens do not have the expertise or the time.

-Type 2 systems, in which citizens review the internal affairs unit’s findings (e.g., Orange County, Rochester, St. Paul), tend to be inexpensive because volunteers typically conduct the reviews.

-Type 3 systems, in which citizens review complainants’ appeals of police findings (Portland), can also be inexpensive because of the use of volunteers.

-Type 4 systems, in which auditors inspect the police or sheriff’s department’s own complaint investigation process (Portland, Tucson), tend to fall in the midlevel price range. On one hand, like type 1 systems, only a paid professional has the expertise and time to conduct a proper audit. On the other hand, typically only one person needs to be hired because the auditing process is less time consuming than conducting investigations of citizen complaints.”

NIJ Citizen Review of Police

What type of oversight of police critical incidents takes place in your Idaho community?

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Tags: Ada County, Ada County Sheriff, Boise Police, Boise Police Department Office of Internal Affairs, BPD, CITF, Citizen Review, Critical Incident Task Force, National Institute of Justice, Office of Police Accountability, OIA, OPA, Oversight, Skip Banach, Star

One thought on “How Should Police Officer-Involved Shootings Be Investigated?

  1. Boise used to have an Ombudsman Program for this back in the late 90’s. It appeared to help then, and worked. Where did it go ?

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