Resolution in Support of a Criminal Justice Ombudsman Program

Summary

Trust and accountability play a critical role in building relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. In order to meet the needs of the public and law enforcement officers alike, there needs to be an independent and transparent process when it comes to law enforcement related shootings, and in-custody deaths that respects the due process rights of law enforcement while ensuring necessary accountability and transparency to the public.

Resolution in Support of a Criminal Justice Ombudsman Program

Model Resolution

WHEREAS, when there is a law enforcement related shooting or in-custody death, a police department conducting its own investigation or appointing another police department in the region to do so only leads to a potential conflict of interest and undermines community trust in the process. An independent entity would eliminate this conflict of interest, increase transparency, and build trust with the community into how these types of investigations by law enforcement are handled.

WHEREAS, collective bargaining of the police officer disciplinary process within individual police departments has led to a growing concern that such contractual provisions undermine the ability of management to deter misconduct. When officers are disciplined, far too often that discipline is subject to grievance and arbitration procedures that could take months, if not years, to be fully resolved. Moreover, police executives’ decisions on officer discipline are frequently reversed or modified by arbiters, civil service boards, and grievance panels.

WHEREAS, many states have allowed police unions to have considerable power over their employers and affect how governments operate, especially regarding collective bargaining.

WHEREAS, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States proclaim that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” In any investigation of law enforcement while acting under the color of law, due process rights for the law enforcement officer should be respected and reinforced.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: States need to embrace transparency and accountability within the criminal justice system by instituting an Ombudsman within their state’s bureau of criminal investigation that allows for effective communication, structure, and process between law enforcement and the communities in which they serve during the investigation of law enforcement related shootings or in-custody deaths.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: An Ombudsman shall work alongside local and state authorities to investigate law enforcement related shootings and in-custody deaths and make a recommendation for prosecution when appropriate or for appropriate corrective action or discipline. The Ombudsman will provide the public with an independent and impartial voice related to law enforcement related shootings or in-custody deaths.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: The Ombudsman will be work under each state’s bureau of criminal investigation and will be appointed by the state’s bureau director. The Ombudsman will have a staff of special agents with full police powers within the state to investigate  cases involving officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.. The Ombudsman shall also have access to state crime scene technicians for crime scene response and be allowed to submit evidence to the state’s criminalistics laboratory.

NOW THEREORE BE IT RESOLVED: An Ombudsman would act as an independent and impartial voice. Law enforcement agencies shall contact the Ombudsman on all law enforcement related shooting and in-custody deaths at their department. As a result of the investigation, the Ombudsman shall make a recommendation on whether the complaint was a criminal act, a policy violation, or a lack of formality or training within the department. If the Ombudsman  does not recommend criminal prosecution, the recommendation does not preclude the relevant prosecutorial office from ultimately pursuing criminal charges, but no decision should be made until the Ombudsman has made their recommendation after an investigation.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the appropriate local and/or state law enforcement agency may initiate and advance an investigation for a police-related shooting or in-custody death. Provided, however, that the local and/or state law enforcement agency shall cooperate with the Ombudsman and provide all information related to their investigation in a timely manner.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the Ombudsman shall have access to any local, state, federal agency records, or databases for investigative purposes. The Ombudsman shall establish and manage a repository associated with their investigations that can be made available to law enforcement agencies and the general public, regardless of the ultimate recommendation of the Ombudsman at the end of the investigation.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the Ombudsman will have a public information officer that will be used to brief the public on law enforcement related shootings or in-custody deaths and operate a website that provides information about the ombudsman’s office and can accept complaints electronically from the public within that system.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: in order to successfully implement an independent Ombudsman, collective bargaining should be limited in scope and not include such areas as discipline related to police shootings, or in-custody death investigations.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: that the Ombudsman shall develop policies and procedures that respect due process for officers while providing substantive accountability and transparency to the public.