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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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Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

the debate
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.
why have civilian oversight
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;
importance for police managers
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.
importance for elected officials
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.
importance for the public
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.
form and mandate
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.
importance of coordination between multiple agencies
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
sources of complaints
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.
requirements for a successful complaints agency
Requirements for a successful complaints agency
  • Independence;
  • Adequate powers;
  • Sufficient resources; and
  • Authority to follow up on recommendations.
  • 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.
adequate powers
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
investigative powers
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.
  • 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.
following up recommendations
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.
  • 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.