Policing the Police

Does the Citizen Review Committee do the job?

Of about 300 brutality cases the CRC reviews a year, Collman says the board "really disagrees" with IAD's conclusions roughly 10 percent of the time. Of these cases, Collman was unaware that Police Chief Clarence Bradford had ever followed any CRC recommendation.

How widely the CRC is known in the community Collman can't guess, but he says there are many police officers who don't understand its function. The best exposure the board received in the Houston Chronicle was a 1993 opinion column, in which member Richard L. Jennings called the CRC "the most effective law enforcement oversight organization in the United States and perhaps even the world."

This would be not far from the view of city officials. Councilwoman Annise Parker says she occasionally felt like "window dressing" as a CRC member, but she seems to be one of the few willing to consider suggestions for improving the board. Jew Don Boney, who has found so little to protest since his election to City Council, says, "I think the system right now is adequate." Chief Bradford maintains the police department is the logical place to complain about a police officer. And Mayor Brown has written Corpus Justice that there is plenty of civilian oversight. "Therefore, I am unable to support your request."

Carrillo at the location where he says he was assaulted by police.
Houston Press
Carrillo at the location where he says he was assaulted by police.

Members of Corpus Justice realize they may die of old age before a stronger review board is impaneled. Through his lawsuit and through Corpus Justice, Gerardo Carrillo goes on fighting. The language of an activist has come quickly to him. "Peacefully," he says, "we can try to do change for the better."

E-mail Randall Patterson at randall.patterson@houstonpress.com.

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