In recent weeks, cities in the United States have witnessed the escalating tension between law enforcement and Black and Hispanic minority groups who believe that police officers have adopted a "shoot first, ask questions later" attitude that denigrates their civil, human, and constitutional rights and freedoms. The country has discussed and debated these issues ad nauseum over the past several decades, yet a genuine solution seems evasive.
If an officer discharges his revolver and injures or takes the life of someone, the department's procedures should reflect the seriousness of the incident. Here are five procedures that can be implemented to move us toward a long-term, sustainable solution.
1. Administrative Leave
An officer who discharges his revolver and injures or kills a civilian should be placed on immediate administrative leave for at least one month.
2. Eye Witness Invitation
The officers should provide all those present at the scene of any shooting (whether or not the victim has died) with a department flyer containing a call-in phone number for eye witnesses who wish to testify before a civilian review board, and a separate phone number for those wishing to leave an anonymous voicemail of what they witnessed in regard to the shooting.
3. Psychiatric Evaluation
The officer involved should undergo weekly psychiatric evaluation by an independent psychiatrist for at least three months. The psychiatrist should be qualified to deal with post traumatic stress, anger, fear and issues of misplaced authority.
4. Civilian Review
(A) Each department should appoint a civilian review board made up of ten diverse members of the community to examine the circumstances, hear actual eye witnesses, and offer any necessary suggestions and/or procedural amendments to the officer, as well as to the department's procedures.
(B) The board should have a total of fifteen members, the first ten of whom conduct the review, and five additional substitute members listed in order of department preference in the event that any of the first ten cannot be available to participate in a specific review.
(C) Board members for each incident should be paid by the City for each review on an incident basis of approximately $500 for a shooting in a major city with minor injuries, and $1000 for a death or serious long term injury in a major city. Smaller cities can pay less, but at least $100 per board member who participates in reviewing an incident.
(D) The conclusions reached by the civilian review board should indicate the date and location of the incident, and whether the discharge was (1) in the ordinary course of duty, (2) subject to recommendations for change made to the officer and/or to the entire department, or (3) subject to disciplinary and other measures.
(E) A summary of the conclusions reached and recommendations made by the civilian review board in regard to each incident should be publicly available on the City and State government website within three months of the incident, and should indicate the number of anonymous and live witness accounts considered.
5. State Oversight
On an annual basis, a state committee made up of state legislators should review all incident reports prepared by the various civilian review boards, and make recommendations in regard to any needed legislation or legislative amendments.
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