Dangerous Trends Toward Civilian Police Review Boards
For nearly 50 years, a deadly and effective attack has been orchestrated against local police departments all throughout the United States and most Americans do not even realize it is happening. The very organizations which are to provide front-line protection against lawlessness in our communities are being targeted. The reason: to neutralize the ability of the local police to identify and intercede criminals and terrorists who would disrupt our peaceful communities. This in turn would lead to the dissolution of strong local self-government, which is the cornerstone of our republican form of government in the United States.
“Another Police-Involved Shooting”
Any time a police officer is involved in a shooting, the headlines writers scream out “Another police-involved shooting has taken place!” It gives one the feeling that the police should be the last people to use weapons, if at all. Nothing is said about the thousands of incidents police are confronted with daily where no weapons are used. Calls for investigations immediately follow and some citizens and lawyers smell lawsuits in the making. Closely behind these incidents are cries from liberal organizations and politicians that a group of untrained civilians should be brought in to investigate and review these cases of police activity. These are called Civilian Police Review Boards. Such is the case facing my city of Mesa, Arizona, now the 40 th largest city in the nation.
Civilian Police Review Board Prohibited by City Charter
Fortunately, it won’t be very easy to do. In 1967, a 14-member Board of Freeholders was assembled to write the City Charter. Serving on that board was Louis Stradling, a student of constitutional government for many decades. He had made a study of those who want to weaken local police in America and was instrumental in having the following words inserted into the City Charter: “A civilian Police Review Board is prohibited by this charter.” Since then, the wisdom of that move become apparent. Because of recent unfortunate shootings in our city and the renewed call for civilian Police Review Board, I asked Mr. Stradling where he obtained his background information in 1967. He reminded me that W. Cleon Skousen had just published a book on that subject in 1966!
Subversives Invent the Concept of Civilian Police Review Boards
Of course, our own Dr. Skousen is eminently qualified to write about this subject. He spent 16 years with the FBI where he had assignments directly from J. Edgar Hoover to help local police establish training academies. Mr. Hoover asked him to research subversive organizations and activities. Dr. Skousen served as Chief of Police of a major city and editorial director of LAW and ORDER, the most widely distributed police magazine in the United States. Time magazine said he had “run a model police force.” His accumulated wisdom was compiled in his book Notes to the New Chief which many new police chiefs used to get a jump start in their duties.
Here are excerpts from Dr. Skousen’s 1966 writings on the present subject:
“It was during this same visit to New York that I spoke at length with Dr. Bella Dodd, former member of the National Committee of the Communist Party who defected in 1948. During this conversation I brought up the subject of police review boards and she stated that she was appalled at the success of the Communist Party and its cadre of fellow travelers in persuading New York politicians to accept the idea of a civilian police review board. I asked her how the idea originated and she said it was invented by the Communist Party in the 1930’s when it was felt that the country was ripe for revolution. The idea was to somehow get the police out from under the control of elected officials and subject the police to the discipline of a “civilian” group which the Party could infiltrate and control. She stated that by this means they intended to mete out harsh and arbitrary punishment against the police until they were intimidated into a benumbed, neutralized, impotent and non-functioning agency.
Why the Demand for Civilian Review Boards Caught On
“The hate campaign against the police was a natural for Communist and left-wing propaganda purposes. Because the police are the authoritative symbol of law and order the American public is extremely sensitive to the slightest hint that they may be abusing their power. This is a healthy situation so long as the public is getting the true facts, but what happens when the people are fed a continuous and heavy propaganda diet of deliberate lies? Unfortunately, experience has proven that they are just as damaging on a temporary basis as though they were true.
“Not only is public confidence shaken in the police by the poisonous hate campaign and the deliberate lies, but there is also the occasional incident when some police officer actually does use bad judgment. Whenever this happens the Communist-left-wing coalition snatches it up and joyfully proceeds to paint a grossly exaggerated version of the incident and present it to the public as being typical of all police. This is offered as proof positive that a band of uniformed blackguards are brutalizing the whole community and the only way to protect the public from their sadistic savagery is to immediately set up a civilian police review board.
“In such an emotionally-charged atmosphere it is easy for Professional politicians to suddenly decide that here is a wonderful campaign issue which could be made highly popular. They therefore seize upon the idea of a civilian review board and start blowing the Communist trumpet louder than the Communists themselves. This happened in the New York City mayoralty campaign during 1965. Even in the primaries, every single candidate came out for a civilian review board except one, William Buckley.
“Of course, the whole basis for the argument that civilian review boards should be set up is the rather fantastic illusion that (1) there is widespread police brutality, and (2) a civilian review board is the only way the people can protect themselves from police brutality.
“They keep missing the point that when these wild charges are carefully investigated by the FBI or other responsible agencies they do, with very rare exceptions, turn out to be deliberate fabrications.
“They also overlook the fact that every incorporated community and every county government in the United States already has elaborate machinery available — both administrative and judicial — to deal with any instances of abusive or illegal police activity.
Citizen Talking Points Against Civilian Police Review Boards
“The legal basis for such boards is lacking . The Supreme Court of New York recently held that the city of Rochester had no authority to compel policemen to undergo a judicial review of their conduct by a group of private citizens.
“No proof of any need for such a board : Elaborate legal machinery already exists for the channeling of complaints against the police. These include the police chief (who has more reason than anyone to ferret out any irregularities in his department), the civilian police commissioner (whose job was originally created to receive complaints from the public), the members of the city council, the mayor, the city attorney, the district attorney, the U.S. Attorney, the FBI, the grand jury and the Federal Grand Jury. All of these have remedial jurisdiction over charges of civil rights violations by police. Long ago it was claimed that local officials would cover up these violations but no such excuse can be used today because for several years charges of police brutality have been within the jurisdiction of the FBI and subject to Federal prosecution.
“These boards are conducive to the intimidation of police personnel : Because the power to discipline is the power to control, the Civilian Review Board takes the police department out from under the people’s elected representatives and places them under a politically oriented and often biased group of lay people who neither know nor understand police problems. During the 1964 riots FBI investigators discovered that departments under Civilian Review Boards were so fearful of reprisal in case they took action where certain minority groups were involved that they were virtually paralyzed. As J. Edgar Hoover reported: “Where there is an outside civilian review board the restraint of the police was so great that effective action against the rioters appeared to be impossible.”
“Police subjected to double jeopardy : In Philadelphia, the first city to try a Civilian Review Board, it was found that even after an officer had been cleared by the courts of an offense, the review board continued to harass the officer and threaten him with penalization.
“Civilian Review Board idea originally created to subvert U.S. police . It is obvious that the removal of the police from the discipline and control of the city’s elected representatives and making them subservient to a small group of private citizens creates a perfect setup for any subversive group desiring to infiltrate the Review Board and intimidate the police. Therefore, as Dr. Bella Dodd, former national officer of the Communist Party, has pointed out, the whole idea of setting up Civilian Review Boards was invented by the Communist Party three decades ago. Their object, she says, was to gain control of the police and paralyze them when riots and violence were instigated. And as J. Edgar Hoover has already indicated, this is exactly what happens.
“Motives of those now promoting Civilian Review Boards are highly questionable . The American Civil Liberties Union which is waging a nationwide campaign to place the police under Civilian Review Boards has been investigated many times for suspected subversive activities. And while the ACLU has never been proven to be under the discipline of the Communist Party per se, its director from 1920 to 1940 was Harry F. Ward who has been identified by former leaders of the Communist Party as a member. A Federal legislative committee reported, “The American Civil Liberties Union is closely affiliated with the Communist movement in the United States, and fully 90% of its efforts are on behalf of communists who come into difficulty with the law.” The California Senate Fact Finding Committee supported this estimate of “90%” and said, “The American Civil Liberties Union may be definitely classed as a communist front or ‘Transmission Belt’ organization.” (These and other citations on ACLU are quoted with original sources in The California Peace Officer, November-December, 1960, in an article entitled “Police Review Board,” by Norman H. Moore.)
“J. Edgar Hoover has issued a warning against Civilian Review Boards : In the January 1, 1965, issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, J. Edgar Hoover wrote: “When carefully considered, it is clear this drive for external boards is an ill-advised maneuver. It amounts to the usurpation of authority rightfully belonging to the police commander. It is a practice which could damage effective law enforcement and reduce the orderly processes of community life to petty bickering, suspicion, and hatred.”
“Advocates of Civilian Review Boards deliberately misrepresent facts on police brutality : In an article entitled, “Police Brutality, Fact or Fiction,” U.S. News & World Report, September 6, 1965, gives the results of a national survey: “Diligent inquiry on the part of staff members … has failed to turn up evidence of any ‘wave’ of brutality on the part of police toward citizens in the cities of the United States. What research does reveal is that civilian ‘brutality’ against the police is being practiced rather widely. Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics show that 57 officers were murdered in line of duty last year. Eighteen thousand policemen were assaulted, resulting in injuries to 7,700 of them.” (W. Cleon Skousen, The Communist Attack on U.S. Police , Ensign Publishing, 1966)
Today, the players have changed and the labels have changed, but the intent and the tactics are still the same. Perhaps the best action concerned citizens can do is to organize a Support Your Local Police Committee to make sure the truth is always available to citizens and to have a Police Appreciation Week in the community. We must remind ourselves that local law enforcement is the only thing that stands between us and devastating, brutal anarchy.