Police Oversight Agencies in 100 Largest U.S. Cities

By Sharon R. Fairley

This site reports on an internet survey conducted January through August 2019 of the government bodies responsible for civilian oversight of municipal law enforcement entities in the top 100 U.S. jurisdictions based on population. The survey is an attempt to identify the entities and document the forms of civilian oversight in each city.

In addition to documenting the existence and functions of the entities in each city, the survey, which is based on information available on the internet at the time of data gathering, was also conducted to assess the prevalence of the various forms of civilian oversight across the largest U.S. cities. Based on online information, the survey identifies each civilian oversight agency as providing one or more of the following seven civilian oversight functions: Investigative, Audit, Review, Adjudicative, Advisory, Supervisory, and Appeals. The information on each agency has been compiled to shed light on the prevalence of the various forms of civilian oversight of policing that the largest U.S. cities employ.

The results show that a majority of the top 100 U.S. jurisdictions employ at least one form of civilian oversight of police, and that many jurisdictions have developed more complex, multi-functional systems as dozens of municipalities either started up or enhanced the powers of existing civilian oversight systems in the preceding five years.

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Note: Thanks for checking out our website. This site is based on data collected in 2019. For more current information on civilian oversight, go to NACOLE.org

Function Frequency

Which oversight functions occur most frequently?

FunctionPercentage of Cities with Agency Fulfilling Function

Function Combinations

Which combinations of oversight functions within a single city are most prevalent?

InvestigativeReviewAuditAdjudicativeAppealsSupervisoryAdvisory
Investigative4
Review1010
Audit431
Adjudicative6421
Appeals35044
Supervisory672530
Advisory51543233
#

Indicates number of cities that employ the combinations of oversight functions as specified along the horizontal and vertical axes.

#

Indicates number of cities that employ only this sole oversight function.

Review + Advisory: 15

Investigative + Review: 10

Review (as sole oversight function): 10

Review + Supervisory: 7

Investigative + Adjudicative: 6

Function Definitions

Based on the available information, each civilian oversight entity identified is classified as providing one or more of the following oversight functions:

  • Adjudicative: An entity that adjudicates specific disciplinary matters by making findings and recommendations at the conclusion of a disciplinary hearing or other proceeding.

  • Advisory: An entity that makes recommendations to the police department regarding high level policy and operational strategies.

  • Appeals: An entity that reviews outcomes of disciplinary investigations upon the request of either the complainant or the accused officer.

  • Audit: An entity that audits investigations of police incidents conducted by the police department. For purposes herein, an auditing entity reviews only a sample of investigations, rather than reviewing all investigations or all investigations of a certain type.

  • Investigative: An entity that investigates police incidents independently from the police department and that employs at least one professional investigator.

  • Review: An entity that reviews or monitors investigations of police incidents being conducted by the police department.

  • Supervisory: An entity that makes high level policy and strategic decisions regarding police department operations.