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«Handbook on police accountability, oversight and integrity CRIMINAL JUSTICE HANDBOOK SERIES Cover images: Left and right: ©Photodisc.com, Centre: ...»

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Handbook on police


oversight and integrity


Cover images: Left and right: ©Photodisc.com, Centre: ©iStockphoto.com/theprint



Handbook on police accountability,

oversight and integrity



New York, 2011


Sales No. E.11.IV.5 ISBN 978-92-1-130307-0 eISBN 978-92-1-055037-6 © United Nations, July 2011. All rights reserved.

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Requests for permission to reproduce this work are welcomed and should be sent to the Secretary of the Publications Board, United Nations Headquarters, New York, N.Y.

10017, U.S.A. or also see the website of the Board: https://unp.un.org/Rights.aspx.

Governments and their institutions may reproduce this work without prior authorization but are requested to mention the source and inform the United Nations of such reproduction.

Publishing production: English, Publishing and Library Section, United Nations Office at Vienna.

ii Acknowledgements The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) would like to express its gratitude to Anneke Osse, a consultant based in the Netherlands, who prepared the final text of this Handbook on Police Accountability, Oversight and Integrity, and to Graham Dossett, a consultant based in the United Kingdom, who provided the initial draft for the Handbook.

UNODC also wishes to acknowledge the valuable contributions received from experts from a range of backgrounds, including police officers, members of independent oversight bodies, international consultants, human rights activists and academics, in


Pierre Aepli, Etannibi Alemika, Josef Roy Benedict, Mick Beyers, Tom Davies, Quirine Eijkman, Hugo Frühling, Emma Gardner, Roger Gaspar, Cecil Griffiths, Martin Hardy, Kees Hindriks, Lilian Mahiri, Walter McKay, Swati Mehta, Edgar Mohar, Rachel Neild, Gillian Nevins, Sergei Nikitin, Vivienne O’Connor, Tim Parritt, Sanjay Patil, Kathrin Quesada, John Ralston, Lauri Sivonen, Everett Summerfield, Sean Tait, Daniel De Torres, Lars van Troost and Tommy Tshabalala.

The following UNODC staff also contributed to the Handbook throughout its development: Estela Maris Deon, Anna Giudice Saget, Ajit Joy, Erik Larson, Pierre Lapaque, Valérie Lebaux, Danielle Murdoch, Nivio Nascimento, Emanuele Pitto, Venkata Rama Sastry, Mark Shaw, Mia Spolander, Oliver Stolpe, Arnaud Tasciyan, Sandra Valle and Dimitri Vlassis.

iii Summary For the purposes of the present Handbook, accountability is defined as a system of internal and external checks and balances aimed at ensuring that police carry out their duties properly and are held responsible if they fail to do so. Such a system is meant to uphold police integrity and deter misconduct and to restore or enhance public confidence in policing. Police integrity refers to normative and other safeguards that keep police from misusing their powers and abusing their rights and privileges.

For the police to be able to take responsibility for actions and wrongdoings, they need to receive proper direction. They also need to be well-prepared and equipped to carry out their functions in a professional way, and need to be assured of proper working conditions. Line managers must supervise their staff, and police actions and operations need to be reviewed and evaluated. Moreover, effective accountability requires a proper complaints system that is easily accessible to the public and that can effectively investigate allegations and recommend disciplinary sanctions or refer cases for criminal prosecution.

It should also be able to make recommendations that target the underlying causes of misconduct.

Effective police accountability involves many different actors representing the different layers of modern-day democracies, including government representatives, the parliament, the judiciary, civil society actors and independent oversight bodies such as national human rights institutions. Primarily, it involves the police themselves.

Key elements of an effective police accountability system include:

" Legislation (in line with international human rights law) specifying the functions and powers of the police " Practical instructions based on the legislation that reflect both the spirit and the letter of the law " Opportunities for the public to voice their concerns " Policies that set priorities on how to deploy police capacity " Adequate police training, both basic and ongoing " Equipment that is adequate for prescribed police functions " Proper reporting procedures and facilities " Adequate supervision that supports officers in carrying out their duties professionally and reporting these correctly " A working culture that promotes transparency and evaluation " Monitoring of police actions and operations by both police leadership and external organs " Complaints procedures, both for making complaints to the police directly and to independent bodies " Fair and effective procedures and policies on how to deal with misconduct, including both disciplinary and criminal codes, adequate investigative capacity, procedures for punishment and appeal procedures iv " An independent body to oversee such procedures " Scrutiny and oversight involving feedback to the police in order to improve future activities and prevent future wrongdoings " Evaluation and complaints procedures that contribute to the development of new policies, procedures and instructions " Reliable statistics on police performance, related both to effectiveness in dealing with crime and public order, as well as to their integrity and public confidence " Procedures for overseeing the feedback, evaluation and complaints procedures and statistics

–  –  –

Law enforcement institutions are entrusted with a diverse set of tasks requiring a high degree of integrity within police agencies and their oversight. Where this does not function well, law enforcement officers may become vulnerable to acting unlawfully and outside their remit. In post-conflict societies in particular, but also in many non-conflict situations, police reform interventions are much needed, often in the form of retraining for police officers with a particular focus on human rights principles. In addition, a longer-term effort is required to establish a framework for police oversight and accountability in order to strengthen integrity within systems of policing.1 Efforts to enhance police oversight and accountability must focus on three key, related priorities. Firstly, where policing has been militarized2 and may be undemocratic and authoritarian, efforts must be made to enhance civilian control over the police. Secondly, it is necessary to increase public confidence in the police by upgrading levels of police service delivery as well as by investigating and acting in cases of police misconduct. Finally, reducing corruption within the police is crucial.

The present Handbook is one of the practical tools developed by UNODC to support countries in the implementation of the rule of law and the development of criminal justice reform. It aims to assist countries in their efforts to develop effective systems of oversight and accountability within their law enforcement authorities and enhance

police integrity, and it addresses issues including:

" Enhancement of police integrity and the integrity of policing William G. O’Neill, Police Reform and Human Rights: A HURIST Document (New York, Joint Human Rights Strengthening Programme of the United Nations Development Programme and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (HURIST), 2004). In the past decade, a number of publications have been released collating the main lessons learned in relation to police reform in post-conflict situations but also as a component of conflict prevention strategies. See for example David H. Bayley, Democratizing the Police Abroad: What to Do and How to Do It, Issues in International Crime (Washington, D.C., United States of America, Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, June 2001), available from www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/188742.pdf; Otwin Marenin, Restoring Policing Systems in Conflict Torn Nations: Process, Problems, Prospects, Occasional Paper, No. 7 (Geneva, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, June 2005), available from www.ssrnetwork.net/document_library/detail/3908/restoring-policing-systems-in-conflict-torn-nations-processes-problems-prospects and William G. O’Neill, “Police reform in post-conflict societies: what we know and what we still need to know”, Policy paper (New York, International Peace Academy, 2005). Available from www.ceinicaragua.org/posguerra/library/security/police_reform_in_post-conflict_societies.pdf.

That is, military in style, culture and operations and sometimes in fact, when the police have been part of the military.


–  –  –

The key players in enhancing police accountability are police officers themselves, as the prime bearers of responsibility for the integrity of the police force. The next most important players are independent police oversight bodies. Other State institutions, most notably the Ministry of the Interior,3 and civil society, are also of crucial importance.

The present Handbook aims to describe an integrated approach to installing an effective police accountability system, including both preventive and corrective measures, and to explain the role and functions of the different actors in this system.

Target audience of the Handbook The intended users of the present Handbook are policymakers and those working at the strategic or management level in police agencies. Parliamentarians and civil society organizations engaged in activities related to improving police accountability, integrity and civilian police oversight may also find it useful.

Overview of chapters Chapter I gives an overview of the principles relevant to democratic policing. The key to restoring or enhancing public confidence in the police is openness to external review and oversight. Achieving public confidence is crucial to effective policing. The chapter presents a structure for developing, analysing and implementing an effective police accountability system.

A core principle of police accountability is that the police should be accountable to the law. Chapter II gives an overview of the most relevant international standards related to policing and police accountability.

While police accountability is not restricted to dealing with complaints, an effective complaints system is key to ensuring accountability. Chapter III looks at the complaints system, discussing the general principles for dealing with complaints, applicable both to the police and independent police complaints bodies.

Independent bodies are discussed in chapter IV, which presents a list of the factors that promote the impact and effectiveness of these bodies. Examples of independent police oversight and complaints bodies, with different mandates and operating in different legal systems, are also provided.

While the name of the ministry responsible for the police varies from country to country—examples include Home Office, Ministry of Security and Ministry of Police Affairs—the functions in relation to the police are usually similar. Additionally, any gendarmerie usually reports to the Ministry of Defence. In the present Handbook, “Ministry of the Interior” will be used.


The police themselves are the key players in maintaining or restoring police integrity.

Chapter V elaborates on their role, with a particular emphasis on managers. The chapter also views the range of instruments that police have at their disposal to strengthen internal accountability and preserve integrity.

Police accountability is not limited to the police and the independent police bodies. The various institutions that can be considered to constitute the State each play a distinct role, as discussed in chapter VI. The role of the public, not just as “clients” who need to be able to share their concerns, but also in sharing responsibility for fair and effective

policing, is examined in chapter VII.

–  –  –

A. Democratic policing: key concepts The mechanisms established by States to protect people’s rights, establish and maintain order and guarantee stability and security are usually referred to collectively as the security sector.4 An important actor in the security sector is the police, whose functions, as a

minimum, are:5

" Prevention and detection of crime " Maintenance of public order " Provision of assistance to the public In order to carry out these functions, the police have certain powers, namely the power to arrest and detain and the power to use force. It is precisely this monopoly on the use of force6 and the power to arrest and detain that place the police in a unique and sensitive position within the democratic State, so that adequate control mechanisms are required to ensure that these powers are consistently used in the public interest.7 Like any other public service, the police must operate with impartiality.

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