What should the qualifications and training be for oversight practitioners?


Being a practitioner in civilian oversight of law enforcement requires one to meet certain qualification standards and to receive ongoing training.  However, training and work qualifications are different for directors, investigators, supervisors, and board members.  The NACOLE website provides a list of training topics and qualifications for full time practitioners and volunteer board members [create links to relevant NACOLE pages]. 

For agency directors (including auditors, monitors, and ombudsmen), NACOLE recommends at minimum a Bachelor’s degree in a related field, but a Master’s degree, Juris Doctorate, or PhD is highly desirable.  At least four years of legal or administrative experience are recommended, along with prior supervisory or managerial experience.  An agency director must be innovative and possess good judgment, objectivity and integrity.  An agency director must be able to work effectively with a wide array of professional and elected stakeholders as well as with a multicultural community.  An agency director should have exceptional communication skills and the ability to address both community and institutional concerns.  The agency director must be able to manage people and organizations by setting goals, developing and implementing programs, supervising and managing personnel, and developing and managing a budget.  An agency director must be resilient and possess strong diplomatic skills.  A director must also possess knowledge of general legal principals and statutory law as well as practices and procedures related to conducting investigations and administrative hearings.  A director of a civilian oversight agency should have strong knowledge of the rules and regulations governing police operations, organization and administration.

A supervisory investigator should have a Bachelor’s degree and at least five years of experience conducting civil, criminal or factual investigations.  Supervisory investigators should possess the ability to plan, conduct and supervise complex investigations and provide training and supervision for other investigators.  A supervisory investigator must have the ability to review and edit the work of other investigators to ensure that an investigation is thorough and the factual findings and analyses are sound.  Supervisory investigators must have knowledge of criminal justice procedures and the ability to establish investigative procedures and standards consistent with best practices in civilian oversight.  A supervisory investigator should also possess a commitment to civilian oversight and strong communication skills.  

First line investigators for civilian oversight agencies should have a Bachelor’s degree in a related field and three years of experience conducting civil, criminal or factual investigations.  Oversight investigators should have knowledge of investigative techniques and procedures and the ability to conduct detailed factual interviews with aggrieved individuals, witnesses and police officers.  Investigators should possess knowledge of evidence handling and preservation procedures, of skip-tracing techniques to locate witnesses and of legal and criminal justice procedures.  Investigators must have the ability to conduct investigations in an objective and independent manner.  Investigators must be able to produce clear, concise, well-organized and thorough investigative reports and communicate professionally and courteously with individuals from a wide variety of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.  Investigators must be resourceful and demonstrate sound judgment in collecting and developing facts and have the ability to analyze and apply relevant laws and regulations to the facts of a case. 

For an oversight agency to be perceived as credible and legitimate, board or commission members must also acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their assignment responsibly.  The types and depth of relevant training depend on the role, duties and authority of the board or commission.  Each agency must critically assess the tasks and functions its members will perform and determine the skills, expertise or training they need to acquire in order to perform their duties. 

Board and commission members should receive an initial orientation to civilian oversight including a review of the variety of models of civilian oversight.  Members should be provided with an historical account of the establishment of their oversight agency and receive training on the charter, ordinance, or municipal code which established the oversight agency.  Members should also be informed of the expectations the local community and government stakeholders have of the oversight agency.  Additional education should include laws governing public records and public meetings; confidentiality requirements; state and local laws that affect an officer’s rights and privacy; case law on stops and detentions, search and seizure and the rights of an arrestee; as well as the steps in the criminal justice process including arrest, booking, arraignment, bail, hearings, and trial. 

Members should receive information on the history, organization and evolution of the local law enforcement agency and should be exposed to police training on a wide variety of police practices and procedures, including: patrol; rules of conduct; procedures for detention, arrest, booking, transport, and provision of medical care; use of force guidelines including defensive tactics, takedown and pain compliance maneuvers, handcuffing techniques, baton use, use of less lethal and restraint devices, and use of firearms.  Members should receive training on procedures for the investigation and review of shootings and in-custody deaths, first amendment activities, and policies for dealing with mentally disturbed individuals and people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Members should also become familiar with the history, culture, and concerns of the communities served by the law enforcement agency, in particular the public’s potential concern with biased based policing and racial profiling. 

Finally, members should receive specific training on their oversight agency’s operations and procedures including complaint intake, investigation, mediation and disciplinary procedures; evaluating credibility, reaching findings and due diligence requirements; procedures for hearings and meetings; and developing policy recommendations.  Ride-alongs with members of the local police agency should also be provided to board and commission members. 

See the NACOLE webpage here [create link] for potential sources for training.