Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Major Professor

John M. Scheb

Committee Members

Michael R. Fitzgerald, David J. Houston, Catherine A. Luther


This dissertation explores the mechanisms by which civilian oversight of the police seeks to improve the accountability, transparency, trustworthiness, and, ultimately, the legitimacy of law enforcement. This exploration involves case studies of civilian oversight mechanisms in Los Angeles, New York City, and Kansas City. In the Kansas City case, I employed survey research and interviews to assess the attitudes and experiences of relevant actors. I found some evidence that civilian oversight can improve accountability, transparency, and trust. However, for oversight to produce the desired effects, citizen boards must have sufficient legal authority as well as appropriate staffing, budgets, and cooperation from police departments and unions. Unfortunately, such cooperation is not easily achieved.

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