- Harvard Business Review: The Organizational Reasons Police Departments Don't Change
- George Washington Law Review (2010): Organizational Culture and Police Misconduct
- US Commission on Civil Rights (2000): Revisiting Who is Guarding the Guardians: A report on police practices and civil rights in America
- The Atlantic (12/12/14): How Police Training Contributes to Avoidable Deaths
Reformers want police administrators to be able to discipline or fire misbehaving cops, deploy officers and/or apply resources in creative ways, prioritize community policing, measure deescalation and discourage use of force, shift performance outcomes away from arrest-based metrics, and fulfill a host of other community expectations. But a police chief who really begins to alter departmental culture will inevitably find themselves in a day-to-day ground war with the union over every granular aspect of reform. That's why, at the end of the day, police chiefs must be empowered; if they are weakened, it's the police union, not community groups, winning those small, behind the scenes battles. Administrators must have sufficient tools to discipline officers, be given clear direction and authority to implement change, and then be held to account for outcomes via better metrics and improved public access to data.
If the current police accountability movement succeeds, it will be because police chiefs are selected based on reform criteria, empowered to make change, and supported politically when they do.
This is perhaps the principle reason Grits does not favor civilian-review boards as a primary police accountability strategy for Texas police departments. (The idea is a transplant from northeastern climes and was never really a good fit for Texas' law and culture, not that they ever worked particularly well at native latitudes.) Most civilian-review boards, like Houston's and Austin's, do not have disciplinary nor even investigatory power and thus are neutered and diminished from the get go, leaving citizens looking to them for accountability disappointed and disillusioned. But here's the rub: If civilian review boards were given independent disciplinary authority - taking power from the chief - that would be even worse. There's no guarantee they'd do a better job, some reason to suspect they'd do worse (after all, we're typically talking about volunteers and political appointees), and the switch would severely undermine the chief's leverage, making it harder to reform the department overall.
The stereotype of reformers as anti-police misapprehends their agenda. Rather, many proposed reforms would strengthen and empower police administrators to reduce undesired outcomes and confront persistent negative aspects of departmental culture. Community groups can't do that work. Of necessity, it must be performed by police management. The goal should be to help them do it.