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COMPLAINTS AGENCIES IN THE COMMONWEALTH. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. The Debate. Civilian Oversight - a relatively new trend and still evolving Internal review would be swifter and more effective

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COMPLAINTS AGENCIES IN THE COMMONWEALTH

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative


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The Debate

  • Civilian Oversight - a relatively new trend and still evolving

  • Internal review would be swifter and more effective

  • Civilian review essential in a democracy since police are ultimately responsible to the public and not police chiefs.


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Why have civilian oversight?

  • Establishes the principle of police accountability;

  • Reduces impediments to bringing complaints;

  • Reduces public reluctance to complaints;

  • Source of information about police misconduct;

  • Can alert police administrators on steps to curb abuse;


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Importance for Police Managers

Police managers have recognized that civilian oversight can:

  • Improve the image of the police and its relationship with the public;

  • Improve the public's understanding of the nature of police work;

  • Promote community policing;

  • Improve the quality of a police agency's internal investigations;

  • Reassure the public that the police agency investigates complaints thoroughly and fairly;

  • Discourage misconduct amongst police officers, and

  • Improve a police agency's policies and procedures.


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Importance for Elected Officials

Elected officials have indicated that civilian oversight:

  • Demonstrates their concern to their constituencies about police conduct; and

  • Can assist in reducing civil claims against a police agency.


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Importance for the Public

Members of the public have reported that civilian oversight has:

  • Satisfied them that the police agency can be held accountable;

  • Helped reassure them that appropriate discipline is being implemented for police misconduct;

  • Discouraged police misconduct; and

  • Improved their understanding of police work.


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Form and Mandate

  • FORM: dedicated solely to the investigation and oversight of complaints against the police.

  • Have a wider mandate. The Mauritius HRC.

  • MANDATE: individual complaints;

  • patterns of functioning and behaviour;

  • look at human rights violations;

  • mandated to look at police corruption.

  • other aspects of police performance, and make recommendations for future change.


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Importance of coordination between multiple agencies

  • Protects against overlapping, duplication and contradictory recommendations.

  • Example: Independent Complaints Directorate, Human Rights Commission, and the Police in South Africa

  • Example: Police Integrity Commission, Ombudsman and the Police in New South Wales, Australia


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Sources of complaints

  • The public;

  • From the Minister in charge or even parliament - South Africa;

  • Suo moto;

  • Certain categories of crime compulsorily referred to the civilian oversight body – PIC, IPCC.


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Requirements for a successful complaints agency

  • Independence;

  • Adequate powers;

  • Sufficient resources; and

  • Authority to follow up on recommendations.


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Independence

  • Constitutional or statutory underpinnings – South Africa, U.K., and New South Wales

  • Leadership drawn from outside the police and government. IPCC

  • Where the skill pool is small, practical reality may require using available police skills.

  • Civilian superiority in staffing is a must.


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Adequate Powers

  • Powers to investigate and not merely review;

  • Call for evidence & compel police cooperation;

  • PIC - search warrants, obtain listening device or telecommunications interception warrants and ensure witness protection.

  • The IPCC has all the powers of the police.

  • Make recommendations about systemic improvements. Helps identify and address root causes of complaints. PIC and IPCC


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Investigative Powers

  • These bodies do not investigate all cases

  • The agency investigates serious cases; and

  • Supervise or monitor other investigations

  • England and Wales: IPCC investigates, IPCC manages, IPCC supervises, and police investigate.

  • Remember: Total delegation erodes credibility.


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Resources

  • Financial independence - budget is voted by the legislative body, and not allocated by the executive.

  • Even small states like Lesotho have decided that the investment is well worth making.

  • Sri Lanka and Pakistan have also created such bodies

  • In small jurisdictions, creating a specialist division within existing bodies can improve overall police accountability.


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Following up Recommendations

  • Very few can make binding decisions - The Ugandan HRC and the IPCC.

  • In other cases, the concerned Minister or police department publicly respond to the recommendations. Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP and PIC.

  • Example: New South Wales – of the 56 recommendations made prior to 2002-2003, over 90% were supported by the NSW Police and nearly half had already been implemented.


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Conclusion

  • Dedicated Civilian agencies have been the most successful in holding the police to account.

  • Single focus agencies;

  • Develop expertise in policing issues and investigative techniques; and

  • Increase capacity to analyse patterns of police conduct and performance.


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