Community Advisory Boards: What Works and What Doesn’t (Lessons From a National Study)

Julian Clark* & Barry Friedman**

Volume 47.2

* Policing Fellow, The Policing Project, New York University School of Law. The Policing Project was assisted by the law firm of Latham & Watkins and received generous support from the Charles Koch Foundation. We would especially like to thank Michael Wilt, from the Charles Koch Foundation; former Policing Project Senior Program Manager Brian Chen; as well as Mike Faris, BJ Trach, Bob Simms, Meredith Monroe, Sushma Raju, John Steinbach, Jeffrey Bashara and others from Latham & Watkins LLP, who worked pro bono to help research, conduct interviews, and visit CABs across the country. We are grateful for the partnership and benefited from it.

** Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law and Faculty Director, Policing Project, New York University School of Law.


Community Advisory Boards (“CABs”) are one of the most common forms of police-community engagement bodies in the country. Both progressive  leaders of policing agencies and proponents of civilian oversight frequently cite a range of potential benefits of CABs to both police and the communities they serve.  As a result, CABs continue to grow across the country. This interest in CABs has continued with insufficient study and evaluation of whether CABs actually play any meaningful oversight or community-engagement role. In order to assess this, the Policing Project conducted an in-depth, national study of CABs.

The study revealed that in practice, many community advisory boards suffer from a number of deficiencies—some quite serious—that often inhibit their ability to achieve their intended purpose. Too often CABs are a result of pro forma efforts by policing agencies to signal a commitment to working with the public—without really working with the public. This Article presents the lessons learned from the study, and offers practical guidance on establishing and operating effective CABs.

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