Police auditors play an important role in providing oversight and accountability for law enforcement agencies. Their job is to review police policies, practices, and investigations to ensure fairness, objectivity, and adherence to laws and procedures. With growing public scrutiny of policing in recent years, the role of police auditors has become increasingly high-profile. This raises the question – who is the most popular and well-known police auditor today?
What Does a Police Auditor Do?
A police auditor typically has the following responsibilities:
- Reviewing police reports, audio/video recordings, and other evidence related to public complaints, officer-involved shootings, and other high-profile incidents involving alleged police misconduct.
- Assessing whether police officers acted in accordance with department policies and procedures.
- Evaluating the thoroughness and objectivity of internal affairs investigations into police misconduct.
- Analyzing police policies and practices to identify patterns or systemic problems.
- Recommending policy changes to improve police accountability and community relations.
- Writing public reports summarizing investigation findings and recommending reforms.
- Engaging community members to understand public concerns regarding policing.
By providing independent oversight over police internal investigations, auditors aim to strengthen public trust in the complaint process and promote transparency around police practices.
Most Famous and Influential Police Auditors
Several police auditors stand out for their high-profile work and impact on policing:
Mark Smith – Mark Smith has served as the Inspector General for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department since 2014. He oversees and reviews investigations into alleged misconduct by deputies and personnel. Under Smith’s leadership, the OIG has produced over 50 reports analyzing problematic patterns in uses of force, deputy gangs, and other emerging issues. Smith is known for his rigorous auditing methods and for implementing a database of deputy-involved shootings and uses of force.
Judge LaDoris Cordell – Judge LaDoris Cordell (retired) was the Independent Police Auditor for the City of San Jose from 2010 to 2015. She oversaw investigations into citizen complaints against San Jose Police officers. Cordell raised the profile of police auditing in San Jose through her outspoken reporting and advocacy for reform. She is credited with strengthening the Independent Police Auditor’s powers during her tenure. Since her retirement, Cordell has remained an influential voice on police accountability issues.
Nicholas Mitchell – Nicholas Mitchell has served as the Independent Monitor for the City and County of Denver since 2012. He leads a staff that reviews investigations, recommends policy changes, and publishes public reports related to cases of alleged police and sheriff misconduct. Under Mitchell, the Office of the Independent Monitor implemented Denver’s first body camera program and shaped new use of force policies. Mitchell is considered one of the most impactful police monitors working today at the local level.
Michael Gennaco – Michael Gennaco is one of the longest-serving police auditors, having led oversight agencies for over 20 years in Los Angeles County, California and other jurisdictions. He currently heads the OIR Group, an auditing firm that contracts with cities to provide police monitoring services. Gennaco and his team have authored over 200 reports analyzing officer-involved shootings, racial profiling, use of force, and other high-risk police activity. The OIR Group’s work has informed major federal interventions in agencies such as the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
Measuring Popularity of Police Auditors
There are several metrics we can use to assess the popularity and influence of police auditors:
- Media mentions – The number of times an auditor is cited in news articles and broadcast media indicates their prominence and visibility to the public.
- Social media followers – Auditors with large followings on Twitter and other platforms have greater reach and name recognition.
- Community engagement – Auditors known for connecting with impacted communities tend to have stronger public reputations.
- Publications and reports issued – Frequently publishing investigative reports keeps auditors highly visible and influential.
- Implementation of recommendations – Auditors whose policy change recommendations are accepted by police agencies have tangible impact.
- Testimony and advocacy – Auditors sought out as experts or asked to testify on policing issues gain public stature.
Most Popular Auditors Based on Metrics of Influence
Based on the metrics of visibility, impact, and reputation, these police auditors emerge as some of the most popular today:
Philip Eure, NYC Office of Inspector General for the NYPD
Philip Eure has led the Office of Inspector General for the NYPD since 2015. He oversees investigations into NYPD policies, conduct, and practices.
Metrics of popularity/influence:
- 50+ media mentions in major outlets in 2022
- 14.8K Twitter followers
- OIG’s recommendations resulted in significant NYPD policy changes, including reforms to use of force reporting and investigations into biased policing.
- The OIG’s semi-annual reports consistently gain media and public attention. Its analysis has informed debates over controversial NYPD programs like surveillance of Muslims.
Ursula Price, Auditor for the City of Seattle
Ursula Price was selected as Seattle’s first police auditor in 2021 after 72% of voters approved creation of the office. She leads a team that investigates Seattle Police Department policies and reviews misconduct complaints.
Metrics of popularity/influence:
- Dozens of media profiles have introduced Price to the public since her appointment.
- Price’s selection followed an extensive nominee review process with community input.
- She has over 3,000 Twitter followers after just over one year in office.
- Price is playing a high-visibility role in the ongoing federal oversight of SPD.
- Her office’s investigations have already resulted in policy change recommendations.
John Alden, San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints
John Alden directs San Francisco’s Office of Citizen Complaints, which investigates complaints against the SFPD and recommends policy reforms.
Metrics of popularity/influence:
- Annual OCC reports receive extensive local media coverage and public attention.
- Alden authors editorials in S.F. media advocating his policy positions.
- OCC recommendations have led to changes in SFPD body camera policies among other reforms.
- Alden maintains engagement with San Francisco communities impacted by policing.
Auditing high-profile police incidents increases visibility
One factor that tends to raise an auditor’s public profile and reputation is investigating high-stake, controversial cases of alleged police misconduct.
Some recent examples:
Vanessa Richards, Chicago COPA
– In 2021, Chicago’s Chief Administrator Vanessa Richards led COPA’s review of the CPD’s botched raid of the home of Anjanette Young. Bodycam footage showed Young naked and distraught as police wrongly searched her home. The case gained national attention.
– COPA’s critical report led to reforms. This demonstrated COPA’s importance and Richards’ willingness to hold CPD accountable in a major incident.
Robert Lewis, Oakland Police Commission
– In 2020, Robert Lewis of Oakland’s police oversight board led the investigation into the OPD’s response to George Floyd protests.
– The Commission’s report condemned the department’s use of tear gas and projectiles against protestors.
– Lewis’s assertive follow-through enhanced the Commission’s visibility and credibility in overseeing OPD’s crowd control policies.
Marc Carter, Honolulu Police Commission
– In 2021, Honolulu Police Commissioner Marc Carter spearheaded the investigation into former Police Chief Louis Kealoha’s abuses of power.
– The inquiry exposed wide corruption and resulted in federal convictions of Kealoha and his prosecutor wife.
– Carter’s handling of the probe raised public awareness of civilian oversight’s role in Hawaii.
Factors driving public attention to police auditors
Several factors explain why public and media attention toward police auditors has grown in recent years:
Trends in Public Opinion
- In response to high-profile cases of police brutality, a majority of Americans support reforms to increase police accountability and transparency.
- 61% believe civilians need more oversight over police misconduct based on a 2020 Pew Research survey.
- Communities of color tend to especially support creating or expanding civilian oversight bodies.
Media Coverage and Social Media
- Cell phone videos and Bodycam footage of police encounters posted online have driven media narratives around policing.
- Attention has focused on what civilian auditors reveal about these incidents.
- Auditors who harness platforms like Twitter amplify their oversight work and arguments.
Protests and Advocacy
- Social justice advocates have pushed for empowering police auditors as a reform to curb misconduct.
- Protests since 2020 have urged creating of oversight bodies in cities lacking them and strengthening existing ones.
- Grassroots community pressure generates publicity for auditors’ offices and their findings.
Federal Intervention into Police Agencies
- In U.S. cities where the Justice Department and courts have imposed consent decrees on police, federal monitors work closely with local auditors.
- This gives them greater national prominence, as seen in Cleveland, Seattle, New Orleans and other cities.
How Police Unions View Auditors
While civilian oversight of police has gained public support, police unions often view auditors as adversaries or threats. Reasons for police union criticisms include:
- Auditors allegedly conducting “biased” investigations against officers.
- Recommendations perceived as misguided reforms that endanger officers.
- Release of reports and bodycam footage embarrassing to police.
- Perceived anti-police biases among auditors and oversight staff.
High-profile union rhetoric against auditors includes:
- A Las Vegas union filing lawsuits attempting to limit the authority of that city’s auditor.
- Los Angeles police unions tried unsuccessfully to block appointment of an inspector general with broad powers.
- New York City’s sergeants union railing regularly against findings by the Office of Inspector General for the NYPD.
Despite the tensions, constructive union engagement can benefit reform efforts by auditors. Some best practices include:
- Inviting union input when developing new policies and procedures.
- Transparency about how officer complaints will be investigated.
- Ensuring union access to reports and findings that may impact officers.
Prominent Organizations for Police Auditors
Professional groups provide resources and networking opportunities for police auditors:
National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE)
- Non-profit representing civilian oversight practitioners and agencies
- Over 235 members from local, state, and federal oversight bodies
- Holds trainings and conferences for auditors to exchange best practices
Major Cities Chiefs Association
- Association of police executives representing 68 of largest U.S. cities
- Its Civilian Oversight Committee connects local auditors and chiefs seeking reform
Association of Inspectors General
- Professional organization primarily focused on government auditing and oversight
- Supports auditors working in municipal police oversight with standards and training
These groups provide platforms for auditors to share knowledge and enhance their work locally. They also allow auditors to engage with other stakeholders involved in policing.
Oversight Models Vary Widely Between Communities
While civilian auditing of police has expanded, the specific structures and powers granted to oversight agencies vary immensely across the thousands of local law enforcement departments in the United States.
Some key models include:
– Have staff that conduct independent investigations of complaints against police officers.
– Tend to have more resources and access to records than advisory or review agencies.
– Example: Office of Professional Standards in Washington DC.
– Review or audit complaint investigations carried out by the police department’s internal affairs unit.
– Focus on whether internal police investigations were sufficient and followed procedures.
– Example: Office of Professional Accountability in Seattle.
– Perform both investigative and review/auditing functions regarding police complaints and policies.
– Most comprehensive authority of any civilian oversight model.
– Example: Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) in Chicago.
– Feature a volunteer citizen commission responsible for oversight.
– Support staff typically performs day-to-day oversight tasks.
– Example: Oakland Police Commission.
Internal Audits Units
– While not independent, some police departments have internal audit divisions focused on compliance, preventing misconduct, and following up on previous complaints/investigations.
– Work is done by sworn departmental employees rather than civilian staff.
– Example: Internal Audits and Inspections Bureau of LAPD.
– Oversee and audit police practices either in specific cities or county/statewide law enforcement agencies.
– Housed independently or within state Attorney General’s office.
– Example: NYPD Inspector General.
Oversight Powers and Authority Vary
Regardless of where civilian oversight sits structurally, there is significant variation in auditors’ powers between cities and states. Key differences include:
|Powers||Stronger Authority||Weaker Authority|
|Initiating Investigations||Can launch probes without outside complaint||Can only investigate after civilian complaint received|
|Subpoena Power||Can independently issue subpoenas to compel testimony and evidence||No subpoena power|
|Discipline||Can impose discipline on officers up to termination||Only advisory recommendation power|
|Budget Authority||Has dedicated funding stream not dependent on city council/mayor approval||Subject to annual budget approval process|
Additional powers like policy change authority and mandatory access to body camera footage are also uneven. Oversight groups advocate greater formal powers for auditors to maximize their effectiveness.
Trends and Developments in Police Auditing
Some emerging developments are shaping police auditing:
Use of Data Analytics
– Computer analysis of police data to identify warning signs of misconduct. Allows auditors to be proactive rather than just investigatory.
Expansion of Auditing
– Growth to mid-size cities without oversight historically. Increases professionalization with full-time staff.
– Bodycams, social media monitoring, surveillance technology create new auditing responsibilities.
Alternatives to Sworn Officers
– Civilianizing and diverting certain policing functions changes auditors’ role and evaluates effectiveness.
Coordination with Other Watchdogs
– Auditors partnering with prosecutors, defense attorneys, advocacy groups provides wider perspective.
Focus on Community Relations
– Proactive auditing and recommending best practices for improving police-community interactions.
While police auditors work locally, the most effective among them are influencing policing strategies and accountability measures nationally. Their reports and recommendations inform federal intervention in troubled police departments. Auditors lift up voices from the community to transform police practices. Those who build public awareness through high-profile investigations and harness platforms like social media are especially impactful today. By providing independent oversight and pressing for greater transparency and accountability, civilian police auditors remain important agents of change and reform. Despite some resistance, their role finds increasing public support and interest. With continuing dilemmas around policing in America, auditors are likely to stay at the center of public debates over the future of law enforcement in communities across the country.