Accountability : Too Important to Neglect, Too Urgent to Delay
2005 Report to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Police
Accountability: Too Important to Neglect, Too Urgent to Delay,
was launched in Malta on the 22nd November 2005, by the Minister
for Justice and Home Affairs in Malta. The Report has also been
released regionally. The launch for the Africa region was held in
Ghana on 13 October 2005. The South Asia launch took place in Delhi
on the 5th November 2005.
believes that policing and safety issues are increasingly growing
in importance for both governments and individuals, and pose some
of the most significant human rights challenges in the Commonwealth.
In addition to describing some of the problems of police misconduct
across the Commonwealth, CHRI's Police Accountability Report provides
a comparative overview of accountability arrangements, highlights
good practice, and gives recommendations for reform to assist governments,
police officials, and civil society in the development and strengthening
of effective accountability regimes as part of the move towards
truly democratic policing. It argues that an effective system of
police accountability is based on the principle of multiple levels
of accountability: to the government, to the people, and to independent
oversight bodies; within a supportive legislative and policy framework.
Accountability : Executive
Summary (299 KB)
Report (960 KB)
in the Commonwealth
Some of the best policing in the world is found in the Commonwealth, and also some of the worst. But by and large, its 1.8 billion people do not have the policing they deserve. Given the weight of evidence it would be easy to paint police across the Commonwealth in monochromatic black. This would be entirely unfair. In many countries, the police are a very trusted and well-respected public service and in many more they do a hard and thankless job in difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, barring a few honourable exceptions, there is too much wrong with policing in the Commonwealth for the association and its member states to persist in closing their eyes to the fact that the continued presence of unreformed policing - powerful, unaccountable, coercive, biased, and corrupt - remains a badge of long gone colonial subservience rather than a mark of confident sovereignty.
Reform requires a shift from 'regime' policing to 'democratic' policing. This entails an approach founded on principles of equity and equality, accountability, transparency, participation, respect for diversity, the accommodation of dissent, protection of individual and group rights, and encouragement of human potential. Democratic policing not only protects democratic institutions and supports an environment where activities essential to democracy can flourish but also demonstrates democratic values in its own institutional structures and processes.
Commonwealth countries have signed up to a combination of international laws and standards. Although these provide a framework for democratic policing, in practice, national constitutions and police laws are more immediately relevant to the conduct of police officers and organisations. As such, it is vital that legislation reflects these international standards and establishes police that "serve to protect, rather than impede, freedoms."
Ensuring human security is the high duty of states and every country is obligated to provide an honest, effective and efficient police service. This includes equipping and financing the police suitably in addition to setting priorities and strategic directions. All three pillars of government - the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary - each have a specific and defined role to play in ensuring good policing.
the responsibility of the police themselves to ensure that internal
systems guarantee discipline, performance and all round good policing.
Two mechanisms define internal accountability. The first is the
disciplinary environment, which is made up of both the formal apparatus
for censuring misconduct and the informal culture which pervades
the establishment. The second is the comparatively new technique
of performance management that aims to assess police efficiency
through target setting.
increasingly embrace the philosophy of democratic policing, attempts
are on to make policing more transparent, involve outsiders, build
public confidence, allay fears of bias, assure impartiality of investigation,
make the receipt of complaints easier, reduce abuse of power and
misconduct, change the internal culture and ensure ever better performance.
Countries across the Commonwealth have therefore sought to augment
government and internal accountability systems with other external
or civilian - meaning non-police - oversight mechanisms. It is hoped
that these systems will complement existing mechanisms and together
create a web of accountability from which it is increasingly difficult
for police misconduct to escape without consequences.
to the Community
policing requires accountability to the community that it serves
- in other words, it requires the consent and cooperation of the
community being policed - not least because close connectivity makes
policing more effective. People need to feel they can trust the
police and that the police prioritise their concerns and will not
subject them to abuse or corruption. In seeking greater police accountability,
some engage and some confront, and some do both depending on the
circumstance. Whether working at grassroots to support demands for
responsive policing, exposing scandals, using courts and other international
mechanisms to shame governments, helping governments to train the
police and craft laws, or working across jurisdictions to promote
best practice; civil society has devised various techniques and
strategies to hold the police accountable.
Recommendations and Annexures
Endnotes and Bibliography
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