Tendencies of a large Midwestern civilian review board: does race matter?

Civilian review boards can benefit not only an individual complainant, but also the surrounding community at large and law enforcement agencies across the country. The diminutive amount of existing research conducted on civilian review boards has focused primarily on the reason for their existence but not the tendencies that the data from these oversight boards reflect. This present study was designed to fill the gaps in the lack of research existing on the tendencies of civilian review boards and further, if race plays a vital factor in the complaint process. Specifically, this study examined complaints against Chicago police officers as logged by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) in Chicago. In sum, this thesis examined whether complaints in general had a racial foundation and more specifically, whether excessive force complaints against African American and White officers statistically differed. The study found that of the 2,577 disposed complaints used in this study, race did play a role in the complaints made against officers and complaints made about excessive force. Although the results did reflect a relationship between race of complainant by race of officer, it only accounted for 8.6% of the variance of the race of the officers involved in the complaints. It should be noted however that there are other factors besides race which need to be considered and were not thoroughly tested in this study. Research on the tendencies of civilian review boards may give complaining civilians an improved understanding of a civilian review board’s proceedings but more study needs to be done as to any racial disparities regarding complaints.