At least 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws addressing community involvement in law enforcement oversight. Oversight mechanisms addressed by statute that involve community members take many forms from civilian review boards to police officer standards and training advisory boards and other review boards.
At least six states have laws addressing civilian review boards. These are generally defined as having the ability to receive or review community complaints about law enforcement actions and then investigate or audit the investigations that follow. Some boards have the power to recommend policy changes or disciplinary measures. Related, Texas and the District of Columbia each have laws that authorize bodies to oversee community complaints.
Illinois and Rhode Island each provide for policy advisory boards related to race and policing. The Illinois Racial Profiling Prevention and Data Oversight Board works in an advisory capacity to recommend changes to rules and policy to the governor, secretary of state and the legislature. The board can create model policies and was tasked with studying specific issues. The Rhode Island Commission on Race and Police-Community Relations is tasked with analyzing and recommending changes to improve police-community relations in the state.
California is unique in authorizing counties to establish sheriff oversight boards comprised of civilians to assist the county board of supervisors with oversight of the sheriff’s conduct.
Some states have also acted to regulate community oversight mechanisms developed in local jurisdictions. For example, Arizona requires members of civilian review boards to complete specified training.
Tennessee limits community oversight board activities to the review and consideration of matters reported to the board and issuance of advisory opinions and recommendations. The law also specifically prohibits boards from having the power to issue subpoenas or to compel witness testimony.
Utah prohibits municipalities from establishing a board, committee or other entity that has authority independent of the chief of police.
Using the Database
Learn more about how state law addresses community involvement in law enforcement oversight by exploring the 50-state statutory database.
Text searching is available for statutory summaries or statutory language contained in the database. The map is also interactive and allows you to select multiple states to review―just hold down the control key to select more than one state. Use the reset button at the top left to clear all filters and start a new search.
Note that this database only contains statutory provisions that address each policy area. Case law, regulations or agency policy may further impact the current state of the law in each state. This database also does not address policies adopted by local jurisdictions or law enforcement agencies.