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Researchers want to know: What exactly do police oversight commissions do?

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A research team received a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study police oversight boards. An Eastern Michigan University professor is leading the project.

Kevin Karpiak is a criminology professor at EMU and the principal investigator of the research team. He says very few people are even aware that these oversight boards exist, much less how they work. This would be the first study of its kind and it would examine the oversight commissions in Milwaukee, San Diego and Washtenaw County.

According to Karpiak, there are a lot of questions to answer about how they operate.

“Other bodies see their work more as being kind of , I think what they would articulate as being proactive. Making policy recommendations before an incident happens. Where as, other boards see their role more as being a liaison between police and community.”

University police departments have been required to have an oversight board since the 1990s. Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and the Washtenaw County Sheriff also have their own.

The grant will last for three years and will run at least through August of 2025.

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Josh Hakala is the general assignment reporter for the WEMU news department.
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