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Is Police accountability a special case, or merely one example of the tension inherent in all accountability arrangements between allowing agents the exercise o - Essay Example

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Police accountability forms a special part of accountability arrangements. All accountability arrangements allow their agents some discretion and independence while holding them accountable for their actions. But in case of police, accountability is much more than control of discretion of members of the police organization…
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Is Police accountability a special case, or merely one example of the tension inherent in all accountability arrangements between allowing agents the exercise o
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Is Police accountability a special case, or merely one example of the tension inherent in all accountability arrangements between allowing agents the exercise o

The OSCE in its report on democracy in Serbia says that to establish democratic stability in a country "it is crucial that the policing is both democratic and free from political interference" (OSCE, 2002). For this purpose, accountability is essential both within and outside the organization. This is to ensure that the police do not function in an undemocratic manner and can be held to account by the citizens for its actions. The report says that the most important feature of democratic policing is that "policing must be with the general consent of the public" (OSCE, 1). This applies both to the actions of the police personnel and the manner in which the action occurs. There must be an ongoing dialogue between the public and the police regarding the style of policing and the limitations of police powers (OSCE, 1). It implies an agreed understanding between the two about when the police will intervene and the acceptable ways for them to do it. It is known as "moral consensus."
In this system there is a balance between power and accountability. Power is granted to the police forces by the parliament on behalf of the citizens, who are granted the ability to hold the police accountable for their actions, policies, procedures, priorities, and expenditure (OSCE 2002). The police is also expected to have integrity, fairness, sensitivity, and these values are upheld through systems of accountability.
In a democracy, policing needs to be based on consent across the community (Accountability I). "The community recognizes the legitimacy of the policing task, confers authority on police personnel in carrying out their role in policing and actively supports them" (Accountability I). Consent depends on proper accountability. The police needs to be accountable in two senses - the subordinate or obedient sense; and the explanatory and cooperative sense. In the former sense, the police are subordinate to the law and the community expects to get the service for which its money is spent. In the latter sense, the public and police need to communicate with each other and work in partnership to ensure effective policing.
OSCE has recommended five levels of supervision to ensure accountability of the police forces to the public. These are:
1. Internal affairs: The first level of accountability insists on integrity. There is the need for an internal affairs department which overlooks the integrity of the individual police staff. Its responsibility will be to investigate allegations of crime, corruption and inappropriate behaviour on the part of the police personnel. They would also devise tactics to prevent corruption.
2. External oversight: To uphold the integrity of this internal affairs department there needs to be an organization, completely independent of the police, which will oversee the allegations of crime, corruption and malpractices against the police. This external organization would also have the right to see the documents of the internal affairs department. This organization would report back to the public after investigating allegations against the police department. It will also be able to influence police procedures and comment publicly on incidents (OSCE 2002).
3. Parliamentary oversight: The external oversight organization also needs ... Read More
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