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CHOGM 2005 Report

Police Accountability : Too Important to Neglect, Too Urgent to Delay

CHRI's 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.

CHRI 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.

Police Accountability : Executive Summary (299 KB)

Police Accountability: Full Report (960 KB)

Forward & Acknowlegdements

Chapter 1 Policing 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.

Chapter 2 Democratic Policing

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.

Chapter 3 Legal Frameworks

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."

Chapter 4 Accountability to State

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.

Chapter 5 Internal Accountability

It is 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.

Chapter 6 External Accountability

As governments 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.

Chapter 7 Accountability to the Community

Democratic 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.

Concluding Recommendations and Annexures

Endnotes and Bibliography

To obtain a hard copy of the Report, please click here to send us an email.

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