Does law enforcement need a citizen review board?

JeffCo sheriff open to citizens review board

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - As protest continues across the country, many are demanding reforms in law enforcement. Some are demanding the creation of Citizen Review Board.

Recently Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway told a group he was open for a discussion on a Citizens Review Board. He had heard it works well in some areas, but others in law enforcement are very suspicious of how such a board would work and operate.

People have taken to the streets in protests over the death of George Floyd in custody of a Minneapolis police officer. Review boards can work according to the Chairman of the UAB department of Criminal Justice.

“Some agencies have done a really good job with Citizen Review Boards. They are very helpful. They are helpful for the community,” Jeff Walker said.

Walker said it depends on how the board is built and what authority it has. It’s job is to review the work of a law enforcement agency after it’s completed its own investigation into possible wrong doing.

“It’s more than just a PR message. It is oversight. It is to make sure the community has input into what is happening in the police agency,” Walker said.

WBRC FOX6 News reached out to a number of sheriffs and police departments. Only Chilton County Sheriff John Shearon spoke with us. Shearon says if someone is wrong they will be investigated and held to trial.

A grand jury of citizens will decide if they go to trial or not. A jury will decide if they are guilty. He has concerns a review board may not understand what an officer has to do and if the officer would be treated fairly. Walker said not every area needs a review board.

“Not because it’s resented. Some areas will be resistant others you want see it happen because there is trust already built there,” Walker said.

Trust is the key. Deputy Chief David Agee with the the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office said the sheriff is looking at several options and the review board is just one way to make them more accountable.

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