New report details effectiveness of COAs, encourages more Florida cities to adopt them
Civilian Oversight Agencies (COAs) are a proven way for Florida communities to enhance police accountability and reduce Black arrest rates, and more cities should establish COAs to reduce tensions between the public and officers, according to a new study released by the LeRoy Collins Institute. The study found that cities that adopt COAs see a 15% reduction in the total Black arrest rates compared to cities that do not have a COA.
The study, “Improving Police-Community Relations: The Role of Civilian Oversight Agencies in Florida,” reviewed data from the Uniform Crime Report for 114 Florida’s cities between 2000 and 2017. The study determined that an array of policy solutions advanced in recent years has been largely unsuccessful at initiating long-term changes in the policing profession related to police use of force, but said COAs represent one of the most promising policy solutions to allow for a lasting impact.
“This study shows that the implementation of COAs as part of a police force reduces black arrests,” said LeRoy Collins Institute Director Lonna Atkeson. “As more cities adopt COAs across the state, especially paired with other police oversight tools like increased training and body cams, we have the potential to see a decrease in arrests and improved working conditions for police officers.”
The study found that COAs enhance accountability and serve as a source of external oversight over police agencies. They represent the next innovation for police and community accountability, the study concludes, and evidence from the analysis shows that COAs are one way to reduce Black arrest rates in Florida. Potential implications for cities considering adopting a COA, both in Florida and across the country, include decreased intense workload for officers; an increased sense of legitimacy for the police force within the community; the ability to pair a COA with other tools to improve police-community relations; and the capacity to help improve communication long-term between the police and the community.
Because COAs are governmental agencies created at the local level, they allow for some variance in the level of engagement and structure. The simplest structure consists of a board of citizens who serve as volunteers, who review findings of investigations conducted by the police agency’s internal affairs division.
The full report is linked here.
About the LeRoy Collins Institute
Established in 1988, the LeRoy Collins Institute is a nonpartisan, statewide policy organization that studies and promotes creative solutions to key private and public issues facing the people of Florida and the nation. The Institute, located in Tallahassee at Florida State University, is affiliated and works in collaboration with the State University System of Florida. Named in honor of former Florida Governor LeRoy Collins, the Institute is governed by a distinguished board of directors, chaired by Lester Abberger. Other board members include executives, local elected officials, and other professionals from throughout the state.