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Civilian Review Boards and Garrity

Civilian Review Boards and Garrity

Jack Ryan

As civilian oversight of police has become more common-place, the issue has arisen as to whether a civilian review board can compel statements from officers. The Court of Appeals of Colorado, ruled recently that a civilian review board could not compel an officer’s statement regarding the use of excessive force.i Denver v. Powell involved two use of force incidents. In the first, the officer was accused of pushing a drunk-driving suspect’s head into a wall. In the second, the officer had fatally shot a suspect. In both cases, the department and the state attorney had reviewed the officers’ actions and had declined to take further action.

The civilian oversight commission that was set up by ordinance and had subpoena power subpoenaed the two officers to give testimony after the family members asked the commission to review the officers’ conduct. Both officers appeared before the commission and asserted their 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The commission then sought a court order compelling the officers to speak. The district court issued the order compelling the officers to give testimony leading to the appeal in this case. In its review of the case the court of appeals ruled that the officers could not be compelled to give testimony before the review commission. The court agreed with the position of the officers that since the commission was not their employer and could not discipline the officers for not speaking, the officers would not be immune from their testimony since there would be no threat of discipline. The court rejected the commission’s argument that the subpoena was sufficient state compulsion to meet the requirements of Garrity and Gardner.


i See, Denver v. Powell, 969 P.2d 776 (1998)

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 7 years ago


    If something is working well as it is, why try to fix it? How much do they want to put officers through? As for a civilian doing a review for a police officer, unless they have been there and lived it, I do not believe they can have any idea of how decisions are made in a second. Experience should be used in the judgement.

    Speaking for myself, I do not trust many people at all, other police officers, I certainly would not feel very comfortable giving my trust to someone who has never experienced what they are judgeing me for.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 7 years ago


    Very good decision by the Court. When we have IA, District or State's Attorney's and Grand Jury's (who are educated about the law), why would we need Civilian Review Boards with subpoena and Garrity power? Stupid, stupid, stupid.
    In Sacramento, they do have a Police Accountability Monitor, who works for the City Manager and outside of Police Department, which has really seemed to enhance the credibility of IA investigations and reassure the public. Complaints have gone down to the PD IA by more than 50% in five years, even though there are 5 new ways to report them outside of the PD, and in every language. Most of that is becuase they trust the accountability monitor.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 7 years ago

    Civilian Review Board??? You have got to be joking that's the last thing we need is some liberals trying to get an officer out of a job for defending himself or where there was no other way then someone being shot or tasered...... What is this world coming to?

  • Swat_max50


    over 7 years ago


    Having a citizen's review board to review police cases, makes just as much sence as myself sitting on a medical review board for a triple bypass heart operation malpractice case.

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