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Policing - The Integrity and Accountability of the Police


Part 2 of the Policing sector of the Criminal Justice Assessment Toolkit, produced by the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime in close co-operaiton with the Strategic Police Matters Unit of the OSCE Secretariat.


The great majority of individuals involved in policing are committed to honourable and competent public service and consistently demonstrate high standards of personal and procedural integrity in performing their duties and still more would do so given the right institutional support and training, but in every policing agency there exists an element contaminated to some degree by failure to maintain those levels of honesty and professionalism which characterise policing in general.

The way that policing is delivered will depend on a host of variables including the prevailing political and cultural doctrines as well as the social infrastructure and local tradition. Approaches to policing vary between those based on a high level of control, sometimes characterised by confrontation, through to those emphasising the merits of ‘policing by consent’. The former is usually highly centralised, predominantly reactive, and militaristic in its style. The latter may still be centralised but will interpret policing as being responsive to local communities in the identification and resolution of policing issues.

The complexity of policing and its relationship with the context in which it operates should never be underestimated. In some countries the police will be direct instruments of government policy and extensions of ministerial authority. In others they will be more independent. However, police everywhere are given extensive powers with which to enforce the law, even though the nature, quality and underlying doctrine of that law may vary enormously. In most countries, police powers are designed to protect the fundamental liberties and rights of society, but, of course, the delegation of those same powers simultaneously provides a potential for their severe abuse.

Police officers may be held accountable in a number of different ways. They may be accountable in management or business terms for their performance and productivity, perhaps against government or community-set targets and objectives, but, more importantly, they must be accountable for the way in which they exercise the powers entrusted to them. The degree and mechanisms with which police conduct is monitored, along with the ways in which a lack of integrity, dishonesty and corruption may manifest themselves, are the subject matter of this assessment tool.