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Make Police Oversight Independent and Transparent

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 6 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2007 Pages: 747-754
Jack R. Greene
Date Published
November 2007
8 pages
This paper argues that because the police draw their authority and legitimacy from the communities they police, transparent and independent review of this trust is required.
Such oversight is also consistent with democratic conceptions of the rule of law, which requires that the law be visible, transparent, and managed through overlapping institutions that provide sufficient checks and balances for ensuring legal compliance and democratic consensus. Transparency requires that police policies be clearly stated and disseminated to the public. Independent review of the police requires that the policies themselves and the compliance of the department and individual officers with those policies be examined by a body of citizens independent of the police. This is required in order to ensure that police actions comply with the law and are substantively fair. Collectively, research studies as well as national and local commissions on police misconduct highlight the insular and often hostile nature of the police culture toward individuals and groups outside of its own organization. Four models of police oversight have been identified from the literature and field practice: an external investigation and review model; the use of internal investigation conducted by the police with external review conducted by others; the use of professional monitors, ombudspersons, or auditors who are external to the police agency but who work with the police; and hybrids of the first three models. Although each of these models has strengths and weaknesses, they are all grounded in concepts of transparency and independence in the investigation and decisionmaking about complaints regarding police misconduct. 19 references


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